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chroniclesofal

Getting my tactics right on FM15 - my thought process with Atletico

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Hi all! I've been having a tough time getting tactics to work on FM15 having had a lot of success last year with a downloaded tactic, but, since lazy plug-and-play tactics no longer work, as they're pretty unrealistic as you've got to adjust from game to game in real life too, I decided that if I was going to have to adapt a tactic regularly, it might as well be one of my own creation, rather than one I just found on the internet. Plus it gives you a lot more satisfaction when a tactic of your own clicks, which I know from the rare occasions that has happened for me!

So my starting point was to come on here and read and re-read the great posts on how to build a tactic from scratch and I came across two in particular which really struck a chord with me: Cleon's "Building A Tactic ..." thread and Jambo98's "The 4-5-1 - The Swiss army knife of formations?". I considered myself to have a decent knowledge of tactics before - I'm alright at creating roles and duties, and pairing them with ones that complement each other - but there were certainly areas I had to improve and those threads helped clarify a few things to say the least.

Inspired by Jambo in particular, I decided to give a flat 4-5-1 a try, and having browsed the top five leagues (I figured it best to pick a team I'm at least familiar with since I'm experimenting with tactics) I thought Atletico would suit it. Here's the formation I have right now as my standard Plan A.

2d12wyg.png

As you can see, I've chosen Standard and Flexible with just the one TI, which is Play Out Of Defence. My reasons for such basic settings are, for one, I'm not quite sure what kind of philosophy I'd like to play - for the moment, I'd like to be adaptable, not veering to any extremes and letting my players' roles dictate how they play, for the most part. Then if I see anything that needs adjusting, I can add a TI to adapt the way we're playing. I've often added between 10 and 15 TIs because I felt like everything had to be defined, but for now I'd like to follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and see how a basic, flexible approach pans out. Play Out Of Defence is one I always like to have, though, because I rarely find having my CDs hoof the ball away is helpful. I do have Mandzukic able to chase those hoofs though, so even that one could go.

Anyway, after I'd chosen my 4-5-1 shape, based on Jambo's thread which detailed the flexibility and solidity of a flat five in midfield, I had to choose the roles, and I mostly let the players' styles govern the roles, but in a way that I thought would make us most balanced. Having read Llama's Pairs and Combinations thread once more, and thought about football in a real life context, I decided I wanted one defensive player, one attacking player and one in between in the centre of my midfield. I was between the CM (D) and the DLP (D) for my defensive player (I find the BWM (D) to be too positionally indisciplined), and I chose the latter as I felt it suited my best sitter, Gabi, who is more of a passing, tempo-dictating midfielder than a tackler, but the role still allows him to break up play. This, like any other decision I make, could well change based on what I see (although analysis is not my strong point - particularly in the heat of the moment!). I wanted Koke to be my offensive central midfielder, and this was between the RPM (S), CM (A) and AP (A). I haven't yet used the RPM so I was a little unsure of that, which left me with the CM (A) and the AP (A). For me, Koke is much more suited to the AP (A), as he's more of a passer/playmaker than a runner, so I went with that. I also thought it would give me a little more control in the midfield: rather than a direct option who would be more inclined to dribble, I have somebody who can dictate the tempo and control the game, in addition to my DLP (D). I am hoping that this choice allows me to subtly be more of a controlling team than a direct team without adjusting the entire mentality/instructions of the team, although that may be completely wrong. Finally, my in-between midfielder would be Raul Garcia (although he's naturally an AMC, so he might not quite be suited to this role - food for thought). For this role I was between the BWM (S), BBM (S), DLP (S) and CM (S). I think having one Defend role, one Support role and one Attack role in midfield gives me balance and covers all my bases. I didn't want another playmaker, so I ruled out the DLP (S), and I haven't really used the CM (S) much so decided to avoid it once more. I chose the BBM because I feel like it's the most in-between of the in-between roles: the perfect balance between defence and attack. Plus I thought Raul Garcia, and his back-up, Mario Suarez, would be suited towards it best.

As for the wide roles in midfield, I have Griezmann as a W (A) which clearly suits him, and Arda as a WM (A). Jambo noted his great success with that role, so I thought I would try to emulate that with Arda, a similar player to those whom Jambo played there, in my opinion anyway. Once more following his lead, I made Juanfran, my RB, a CWB (A) so that he would overlap my wide man as he came inside, while Siqueira is a WB (S) at LB. I like this role because it keeps width, doesn't commit too far forward and offers a nice passing option. Another reason for my choosing WM (A) for Arda, instead of WPM, is partly because I already have two playmakers and I wondered if more could be overkill (especially as I don't want my RM to be my 'main creative threat', but rather an added threat to that of Koke centrally), and also because I still want some directness added to the passing. Think Freddie Ljungberg from Arsenal's Invincibles side. Griezmann is more straight-forward and old-fashioned: a direct runner who should form a great partnership with Mandzukic.

Most of this has been spent discussing my midfield (I haven't even begun to discuss my other two tactics, my bad...) so I should mention Mandzukic, the CF (S). I felt I needed a role which would drop deep and link with my midfield, partly as I would probably not face many teams with high lines - if I did, I might change the role to one like AF (A) or P (A) to give us a threat in behind, but for now I don't want him to become isolated. I also see it as a more sophisticated version of the TM, and, like I said earlier, I don't want us to be playing long balls all day long. Another reason for this choice was simply because I think it suits Mandzukic: he's a very all-round player.

As for the CDs and the GK, they're the most straight-forward part of the team. I don't like having stoppers or covering CDs purely because I find that disrupts the defensive line and pulls you out of your natural shape, so I left Miranda and Godin as CD (D)s. I've never had a problem with the GK (D) so I left it at that for Oblak.

So far I've mostly discussed my roles with an individual focus, and I haven't touched much on the partnerships and combinations I'm looking to create, which would be an oversight. First I want to touch again on the idea of balance in the middle. As I said, I have a sitter and a passer in Gabi and Koke respectively (not to say that Gabi won't pass...) and I also have what I would define as a runner in Raul Garcia. That gives me a nice balance and covers a lot of aspects. Then out wide I have Griezmann the W (A) and Turan the WM (A). I would classify Griezmann's role as a W (A) as a runner as well, and Turan's as a WM (A) as a passer, although I want them each to do some of both. This lead to me putting my AP (A), Koke, next to Griezmann, and my BBM (S), Raul Garcia, next to Turan. My reasoning is again about balance: I don't want to have all runners on one side and all passers on the other, so I have a passer and a runner on each side of my midfield. Hopefully Turan will be able to feed Raul Garcia's bursts forward and Koke can in turn supply Griezmann. On top of that I have my full-backs: I would personally consider the WB (S) a passer and the CWB (A) a runner, and so my wide players are both backed up by different threats to themselves. I'm hoping this will give me the balance I'm after: I personally believe balance to be the most important thing in football, if that wasn't already obvious. I suppose that's my philosophy, which informed my choices of Standard and Flexible, not to mention the lack of TIs.

I have two other tactics I'd like to discuss, but as an OP I think that's more than enough for now! This isn't meant to be something to follow yourself, because I have no idea if it will work. It's more a chance to get down my ideas on paper, because I think talking through my thought process will help. Plus it gives me something to commit to so I can't simply give up once it goes wrong, and believe me it will!

My other two tactics are based on specific situations, so I shall post further detailing those. I hope this was an interesting read from anyone who got this far! All feedback, constructive criticism and so on is more than welcome. :)

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What an excellent and well thought out OP and concept :thup:

I really like that setup. Normally, my posts would move on at this point to say "a few points/feedback from me" where i list 3 or 4 bullets of thought where things might not look like they are quite right.

Looking this through, i have to be honest and say i dont have anything of that ilk. I am sure as it goes, you will probably find you want to add a couple of PI's (Keeper distribution comes to mind) and perhaps another TI or 2, but i love how your starting off simple and building from there. The roles and combos are very well thought out, and i think Gabi in the DLP(d) will give you a firm anchor to work around.

One thing i will mention though ,is PPMs. Mainly because off the top of my head, a few of those players have quite a lot. Raul Garcia in particular, a player i love, i think has some quite attacking ones? In your system that might actually compliment him well, but its worth keeping an eye on :)

Keep us updated as you play a few games, and im glad my thread helped you gather your thoughts - I really look forward to seeing the slightly different shape you will create from the same "formation" :)

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Thanks for your thoughts Jambo! I'm glad my choices seem logical to you, as they did to me. A good starting point then! I do often add keeper distribution as a PI early on, as well as less closing down from CBs so they don't lose shape, so you've got a point there for sure. I'm slightly concerned about the lack of physicality in my midfield to be honest, with Gabi offering most of the protection and Raul Garcia helping out, but it is La Liga so maybe I can get away with that.

As for PPMs, I have to admit that they're a part of the game I neglect, partly because it's almost hidden away and partly because it seems quite overwhelming to be thinking about another element, but of course it all contributes. I'll definitely make a note of those that my players have, and observe any behaviours that they might be leading to. :) Thanks again for the feedback!

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Nothing much to add but I enjoyed reading this. Often find that it's easier to start with a blank slate and make adjustments than, like you said, a super structured tactic where you have no idea what's gone wrong.

Good luck, looking forward to any updates. :)

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I'm also a huge fan of the Jambo thread and what he has done there. I used to create tactics that contained many TI's and PI's without thinking them through properly. I have now completely embraced this concept of keeping things as simple as possible and then building based on the flaws you see in game and during analysis. I like what the OP has done and look forward to reading about his further exploits.

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Nothing much to add but I enjoyed reading this. Often find that it's easier to start with a blank slate and make adjustments than, like you said, a super structured tactic where you have no idea what's gone wrong.

Good luck, looking forward to any updates. :)

Thanks! It can be overwhelming to add loads of instructions and fail instantly, because it could be a combination of things that isn't working. Hopefully it'll be easier this way - I also hope it'll allow my team to be flexible and play in different ways. When designing tactics I often neglect passing style as I don't want to restrict my team to one particular style: I want to be able to counter attack when necessary and retain possession when necessary. Hopefully there will be the same effect here, but in all facets of play (except in terms of Play Out Of Defence!).

I'm also a huge fan of the Jambo thread and what he has done there. I used to create tactics that contained many TI's and PI's without thinking them through properly. I have now completely embraced this concept of keeping things as simple as possible and then building based on the flaws you see in game and during analysis. I like what the OP has done and look forward to reading about his further exploits.

Cheers! I also think I may only make changes in-game, keeping my tactic as flexible as possible and only responding with situational changes when they're demanded. There may be a few themes that come up regularly meaning I need to add some permanent changes, but that's something I'll find out.

I have a few things to write up: a thought-process for my other two tactics, a pre-season round-up and some thoughts on the first competitive game of the season: Real Madrid in the Super Cup! The updates will come in that order, so it's onto the other two tactics in the next post. :)

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Tactic Analysis: Plans B and C

I've already detailed my main tactic, which will be used in most games, if not all. Having read Cleon's thread, in particular articles like The Walls of Jericho and Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, as well as knowledge of real football, I know that I'll be facing teams that require me to adapt and most importantly I know that if I'm lazy in that respect (as I have been known to be...) then I'll get found out. I can't just rely on one tactic all season long (although it would be nice) so I have to have things up my sleeve in case things aren't working.

Plan B and Plan C maybe aren't the best terms for what I've made, because they aren't exactly alternatives to one another, but rather plans for specific situations. My 4-4-2 could probably be described as a Plan B though. Here it is.

1zl6mc5.png

The reason I say it could be described as a Plan B is because I intend to use it in games where I'm having the majority of the possession and struggling to break down a lower team. I'm hoping that my main tactic will suffice in these games, and that small tweaks will help me overcome these situations, but I may have to change tactic completely, and it's nice to have a different option available at my fingertips; one that will change my style completely. The roles are similar, so I'll only discuss those that have changed and why.

The first obvious change is the move to a strike partnership, sacrificing one of my CMs for an extra man up top, although that may not be the case in practice. I've chosen a False 9 for a couple of reasons: partly because it suits the personnel available (Cerci and Correa are best as F9s, with no other role available for them in my main tactic), and also because of the specific need for the tactic to break teams down. To do so I need to create chaos in their defence; unsettle them with movement. I think the F9 will be ideal for this, because his movement is as unorthodox as it gets, and should allow the WM (A) to exploit some spaces, with the CWB (A) overlapping and encouraging him to look for space more centrally. I may need to make an adjustment in terms of his PIs in order to fully make that happen, though.

Alongside the F9 is a poacher, and I felt like I could use a more specialised forward role for what will be mostly Mandzukic's (the alternative will probably be Griezmann with Cristian Rodriguez at LW, or perhaps Raul Garcia as the poacher) because he has a strike partner (at least in terms of the formation) so he doesn't need to do as much on his own. He can focus on finding space inside the box, and he's on the same side as the W (A) because I hope for them to form a partnership, much like that on the other side between the F9 and the WM (A). This partnership will be slightly different, though, and will be based on Griezmann beating his man and getting a cross in. As Mandzukic will not be a TM, the crosses should be varied, rather than all aerial. As I expect this tactic to be used against teams that are happy to park the bus, I expect I will have a lot of space out wide and I intend to use it. Mandzukic is possibly the perfect player to play against a parked bus, because, even if the opposition sits back, if he is supplied with the right cross, he can finish in a crowded area. He can also link play with his back to goal (his PPMs include Plays With Back To Goal) so I may change from P (A) to something more inclined to contribute to build-up play if we're lacking in that area.

The other significant change comes in midfield, as we move from a flat three (in theory anyway - it resembled more of a 1-2 in practice) to a partnership. In my three I had a defensive player, an attacking player and an in-between player, or a sitter, a passer and a runner. It made most sense to leave out the in-between player, the BBM designed for Raul Garcia, and tweak the passer's role. As I said earlier, I haven't used the RPM yet, but I have to say it sounded like what I wanted: the creative heartbeat of his team who also tracks back defensively (the BBM should be doing a fair bit of that, although I noted a lack of interceptions and tackles from Raul Garcia in one friendly... maybe just a one-off). The role should see him sitting in front of the opposition defence, which reminds me of Yaya Toure's role against packed defences, and he's often an important weapon for Man City in those situations. People associate him with lung-bursting runs but he's equally adept at slipping perfectly weighted through-balls from 25 yards out to break a team down. Koke sitting in this position will see him dictate play and make use of the space afforded to us in front of defences in these situations, as detailed by Cleon in The Walls of Jericho. I also liked that the RPM is only available on Support, as I thought it seemed more balanced to have a defend duty alongside a support duty, as opposed to a defend duty and an attack duty, even if that is roughly how I want them to separate their actual duties.

In terms of the make-up of the team as a whole, I was happy to sacrifice an extra central midfielder for a striker and the benefits I think that will entail because of the specific situation I expect to use the tactic. In these games against defensive teams, it is unlikely that I will need three CMs in order to control the game, which is ultimately what I want. I expect the opposition to be reactive and to drop off, allowing me to dominate possession whether I pack the midfield or not. So I was happy to take a player out of the middle and use the extra body as the false nine. I also think it retains the balance: the BBM is somebody I described as a runner, and while a F9 isn't quite as enterprising in his runs, he still relies on movement around the box to be effective going forward, the only difference being his movement sees him go away from the box, whereas in contrast the BBM surges into the box.

Another decision I had to make was which CM to have on which side. I followed similar logic to when I thought about my 4-5-1. I think Arda Turan will act as my secondary playmaker (although I may have to change his role either via PIs or a role change to WPM to achieve this) so I wanted Koke, my main playmaker going forward, to be on the opposite side to achieve balance. Furthermore, I thought about the relationship between the strikers and the CMs, and I decided to have my more advanced CM, the RPM, behind my more advanced ST. I thought this would give me balance, and also allow for better link-up play between my RPM and F9: rather than simply trying to play vertical passes from directly behind him, the RPM can link up with the F9 via diagonal passes, and I think diagonal passes are the best way of penetrating. I also think that'll see me create passing triangles as the WM (A) comes inside, which will be important in unlocking stubborn defences. Finally, I like having my main playmaker next to a W (A) who will be making runs in behind, just as the poacher will in front of him, so he will have plenty of options.

Continuing to discuss the team as a whole, you'll see a further few differences in how I've set up this Plan B tactic. Firstly, I've ticked Control and Fluid. I've read so many things on Team Shape that it's quite frankly overwhelming. The idea of it corresponding to how many specialist roles you have sounds like a good one, but I've seen many tactics succeed without doing that, so for now I'm going with the more old-fashioned way and choosing what seems most intuitive to me. I'm trying to do that in general, rather than over-thinking and tying myself in knots. If I'm totally honest, Control and Fluid just seemed right for this tactic, and I'm not quite sure how to explain my choices, which may mean I've chosen it for the wrong reasons. I think Control should allow me to probe without being too frantic, though, as that's exactly what it claims to do in the TC, and Fluid is mainly there to encourage movement and creative freedom, as the aim of the tactic is to break down stubborn teams. Hopefully that'll succeed. I find I'm using the word 'hopefully' a lot...

The other main difference is the 7 TIs I've used. This may seem to contradict what I said earlier about leaving it blank in that respect, but my main formation doesn't have a specific style or aim. Well, it does have an aim: to be flexible. But that in itself means it doesn't have a specific style. This tactic will be used in specific situations, whereas the main tactic would hopefully adapt, adding TIs in certain circumstances when they occur. So it makes sense to me to add TIs to this and my other tactic, because I already have an idea of what situation it will be used in, and I can therefore decide which shouts would be appropriate. This is probably common sense but I guess that's what I need to use in the game, and this is all about trying to have a simple, coherent thought process. So, the TIs...

Work Ball Into Box

Play Out Of Defence

Look For Overlap

Play Wider

Roam From Positions

Lower Tempo

Be More Expressive

I think these all fit with what I'm trying to do. Play Out Of Defence was already active for the main tactic as the only TI added, so I kept it in for this one, but on second thoughts I may actually change it at some point. Goal kicks could actually be useful as a weapon in getting close to the goal as soon as possible, rather than building up slowly and allowing the opposition to sit deep, so that'll be food for thought. Anyway, I've gotten side-tracked. Work Ball Into Box and Lower Tempo are designed to keep us patient, and not trying to force the issue: patience is key when trying to break down a compact side, and I think we'll need to keep trying to unlock them with movement and create space rather than trying to break them down with a battering ram (although perhaps in FM there's a time and a place for that!). Play Wider is to make use of as much space as possible, trying to open up the opposition, and I want us to Look For Overlap in order to create overloads out wide. I read a great analysis article of Guardiola's Positional Play (or 'Juego de Posición) and how it's based on creating superiority. The different types of superiority named were Positional, Qualitative and Numerical (might have been one more...) and here I want to create numerical superiority by having my players in two-on-one situations out wide and forcing defenders to make decisions. I'd also like to see my wide players drift centrally as the full-backs overlap, as they can threaten goal more from a central position than when out wide. Roam From Positions and Be More Expressive are both to simply encourage creativity and movement, although both of those combined with Fluid might be overkill. I'll have to see in-game, and do my best to spot if something's gone wrong and if that might be the cause. I'm really terrible at that, but maybe since I've already identified a potential issue it will be easier to spot if/when it does happen.

And that's all I have to say on the 4-4-2 I've made. I think I'll stop there for this post and do another one about the 4-1-4-1 following this, because I think I've written enough for the time being! I'd love to hear people's thoughts on it, including ideas for change.

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This has made for a belting read so far.

Really looking forward to seeing how this thread evolves.

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This has made for a belting read so far.

Really looking forward to seeing how this thread evolves.

Cheers Jonny, glad to hear you're enjoying it! I'm going to write up my third tactic now and maybe add a quick round-up of pre-season so I can move onto the game against Real Madrid.

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Tactic Analysis: Plans B and C continued

So I've covered my 'Plan B', now it's time to discuss my third tactic: the 4-1-4-1. This is my 'Plan C' but it's not really something that I'll switch to in order to break down teams (at least I don't think so - but the match engine works in mysterious ways so perhaps it'll be effective in that situation!). It's something I envision myself using in games against bigger teams where I want to hit them on the counter-attack, using the space they afford by opening up. However, for now I shall play those games by ear and make smaller adjustments based on what I see (and if I see it early enough!). This tactic contains all of the instructions I imagine I will need to create a solid counter-attacking tactic - I can imagine making all of these changes to my standard tactic if I wanted to counter-attack, so it's worth having in case I want a wholesale change of style and mentality, rather than a couple of subtle adjustments to simply make myself a little more focused on counter attacks. Here it is:

149o7qb.png

As I said above, the shape is different, but it's much more similar to my main tactic than 'Plan B' is. The main difference to my shape is that the DMC, my Anchorman, is deeper, and I hope this will give my defence a little more protection than a DLP (D). I like the DLP (D) and I also like the CM (D), but I'm not convinced that either of these roles, nor any other in the central midfield positions, are defensive enough for what I'm looking for: somebody to win the ball and protect the defence as his main duty. I'm fairly happy with Gabi in this role initially although I may look for someone more robust.

In front of Gabi are two slightly different roles to what I've used before, and there's a slight change in terms of the balance of the team. I still have a sitter, passer and runner, but this time the passer is the in-between role and the runner is the attacking role. I have Koke as the DLP (S) which I think suits him and the team: by changing Gabi to an A (D) I lost my deep-lying playmaker, and I'd like to retain that influence from deep in front of the defence, so I think this will be a good choice, particularly as he'll still help out going forward. I'm not sure about his ability to get forward and influence attacks from a more advanced position but I'll see how it goes (if I ever get around to using this tactic!).

Next to Koke will be Raul Garcia, my CM (A). I love the idea of the Central Winger but I haven't really got anyone who would perform this role, so it's a slightly more 'traditional' attacking central midfielder - basically a more attacking and direct version of the BBM. I suppose I've swapped those two around just as I have the playmaking role from AP (A) to DLP (S), so I think I've done well in maintaining my midfield balance. I'm pretty happy with that. Also I still have one passer and one runner on each side of the midfield. I wanted a more direct role than the AP (A) as my advanced CM role, so I like the CM (A) for that.

The only other roles which change are the full backs, whom I've made much more reserved, with both Juanfran and Siqueira set to be FB (S). I thought a defend duty would be too limiting, especially for a top side, as I'd still like them to offer passing options and angles a little further forward, but a good counter-attacking side doesn't necessarily need numbers going forward, but simply to execute the transition well, exploiting space and making good decisions. So I hope and think that Griezmann and Turan will serve me well in that regard, with Garcia driving us forward from deep, arriving late in the box when the ball is worked wide (that's one of his PPMs! Thanks Jambo) and Koke helping to pick the passes in front of our defence as well. I think these roles should do well.

As this tactic is pretty much the opposite of my 'Plan B', I've chosen Counter and Structured. To me that just seems like the most intuitive selection. There will be games where I just want to sit deep, frustrate the opposition with a compact shape and then hit them on the counter-attack. Mostly these games will be Champions League games I think, as well as potentially Barcelona or Real Madrid. However, I've found that those two often enjoy playing against you when you sit deep: Barcelona can just find space in any set-up, especially with such a deadly front three, and Real are so good with set pieces (as I've already found out... more on that later).

Here are the TIs I've chosen:

More Direct Passing

Pass Into Space

Play Out Of Defence

Run At Defence

Play Narrower

Stick To Positions

Close Down Less

Use Tighter Marking

Higher Tempo

Be More Disciplined

Nothing groundbreaking and all what you would expect to see from a counter-attacking tactic. More Direct Passing, Pass Into Space, Run At Defence, Use Higher Tempo are the shouts focusing on our use of the ball, all standard stuff for counter-attacking which I hope will make us more purposeful going forward. Stick To Positions, Close Down Less, Use Tighter Marking and Be More Disciplined are the shouts to fine-tune our positioning off the ball, and I hope they'll make us more compact and hard to break down. Finally Play Narrower (I haven't mentioned Play Out Of Defence as it's one I almost always use) which I think comes into both categories. I'd like to force opponents out wide as we'll have full backs and wide players ready to block crosses and two beasts in Godin and Miranda ready to rebuff any crosses that make it into the box, but I also like to have the wide players counter-attacking closer to the centre of the pitch. It reduces the chance of them hugging the touchline, something which would give them fewer options (I remember a Guardiola quote saying "The touchline is the best defender" and it's true - the space you have to move/pass into is cut in half) and playing narrower means there's a better chance of them finding space in the vertical channels between CB and FB, as well as ensuring the CF is not isolated.

Pre-season

I played with the pre-season set up by my assistant beforehand, and I used my standard tactic with the full personnel (if available) for the first 45 minutes, of which I watched the first 15 in full (inspired by Cleon) before reverting to Extended until half-time, at which point I'd sub in as many back-up players as possible and concentrated on fitness, simply watching in Key. Here are the results:

oh4b2r.png

I was pretty pleased with what I saw: we conceded twice, which considering the opposition was probably decent although any more would probably have been cause for concern. One of them was from a corner which I hadn't yet sorted out (again, more on that later...) and the other from a throw-in so I was pleased with our defensive statistics, and also with our defensive performance. I was intrigued to see how the tactic would behave and my first impression was that it was very solid without the ball. At times all 11 players dropped behind the ball, despite the standard mentality. This I feel reflects how Atleti defended last year, and I'm encouraged by how we managed to surround players on the ball and cut off passing lanes without losing shape. Some of these impressions might actually be partly what I'm remembering from the first half of the Supercopa (I'm at HT right now) but it's the same tactic used.

I think the one time I made any changes was against Dundee after 10 minutes. They were dominating possession, passing it around really nicely, and I wanted us to be creating more. I decided I had two options: trying to gain control of possession and the game by hassling them, pushing further up and looking to be more careful with our use of the ball, or letting them pass it around but seeking to hit them on the counter when we got the ball back. Previously I would have chosen possession but I decided to try the latter option, adding the TIs Play Narrower, Pass Into Space and Higher Tempo, which I felt would give us more purpose on transition without making us too direct. Also I wanted my wide players to be narrower as mentioned above. I was happy with the changes as my wide players, particularly Arda, were my main threat from there on in, and our attacks were much more incisive, while we didn't lose any of our defensive shape and solidity. Cool!

Arda was the player I was most happy with in pre-season, while I wasn't convinced by Griezmann or Mandzukic, who got one goal each. Gabi also got low ratings but I assumed that was because he didn't have much to do as our sitter. I didn't want to act upon friendlies so I simply left things as they were. Next up: Real Madrid in the Supercopa! Later today I'll write up how I approached the game and where I am at half time in the first leg. Not as a guide, but just so I can continue to detail my thought process and get feedback. :)

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You've post the wrong image there. This has been a cracking read though, following with interest.

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I like following this thread, and especially your thought process behind the tactical set up. Good stuff :).

With regards your Plan C counter attack tactic, are you perhaps getting a little distracted? You start off at Plan A as your main tactic, with one TI (although potentially others added as matches progress), ending up with Plan C using 10 (!) TIs. That's quite a lot and it might perhaps be a good process to review them all to make sure they are all needed?

Setting a "Counter" mentality sets up actions by default, such as: your team will play narrower, deeper defensive line, less closing down, lower tempo, defenders more likely to clear or pass long, midfielders play shorter passes - but when a Counter attack actually happens your team automatically becomes more attack minded with more direct passing, higher tempo and so on.

I'm not saying your TI set up is wrong by any means, I'd just be interested in your thoughts on your Counter tactic given how the Counter mentality plays by default.

Looking forward to the Real result :).

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Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid - Supercopa First Leg: Approach and First Half

This game may have just been a friendly in the eyes of some people, but not only was it my first 'competitive' game of the season and as Atletico manager, it's also my first during my new methodical approach to FM (and I hope I don't get complacent with that!) so I wanted to get off on the right foot. That started with analysing my opposition, something I may not always do, at least not in great detail. But it's Real Madrid, they've got a better squad than me so I certainly had to be prepared for what I'd be dealing with as I'd most likely be on the back foot.

It being the first game of the season, I didn't really have much to go on other than an idea of the line-up they'd start with. Casillas in goal, a back four of Carvajal, Varane (in Pepe's absence - injured), Ramos and Marcelo, a midfield trio of Illarramendi (the 'anchor'), Kroos and Modric and a forward line of Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale. Crikey. I jotted this down in formation and lined it up opposite mine and decided to note the key battles. Obviously Bale and Ronaldo vs my full backs was on there, and I added Modric vs Gabi as this was their playmaker vs my anchorman, and my focus was mainly on how I would stop them play. I also noted Arda vs Marcelo, as I felt my Turkish midfielder could find space behind the marauding full back.

That was all I was able to do before the match in terms of preparation, but I didn't want to adjust my tactic anyway so I guess further analysis wouldn't have added much: I knew where they would threaten me in open play, with the wide players cutting inside and looking to link up with Benzema and get shots away. I also knew from experience that they'd threaten from set pieces, corners especially, but I didn't set them up for a couple of reasons: one, I forgot, oops, and two, I didn't really know how. A foolish error on my part.

As for my line-up, I was forced into a change up front, as not only was Mandzukic injured but two back-ups, Raul Jimenez and Alessio Cerci, also were unavailable through injury. I contemplated throwing Angel Correa into the deep end, but decided to move Raul Garcia forward from BBM to CF, as he's familiar with the position and actually kind of similar to Mandzukic. I could have put Griezmann up front and used Arda in his position with Koke wide right, but I decided to keep my wide players and playmaker in their positions and brought in Mario Suarez as the BBM. This way my tactic was close to resembling what I wanted it to with our full compliment of players fit.

So into the game we go, with Real Madrid lining up as expected. Watching the game on full, I settled down to see how we would fare and I was pleasantly surprised, with Mario Suarez having a shot from the edge of the box go just wide with the first move of the game. However, Real got a corner after 5 minutes, sent it into the near post and Ronaldo pounced to volley in, and we were 1-0 down. Not ideal, but I had been pleased with our work on and off the ball: compact and hard-working out of possession and making good decisions when we had the ball.

On 20 minutes I made my first change, but it wasn't altering our tactics in open play. Real had another corner and Varane had a chance, again at the near post, and I decided to act. I set up to defend corners and I actually had an idea of what to do. I left my CDs marking tall players, and gave my CF the same instruction (Mandzukic would be ideal for this but Raul Garcia should be handy here too). I asked Antoine Griezmann to wait on the edge of the area, anticipating a chance to counter with my fastest player and best dribbler, with Arda closing down the corner also in a position to intercept and counter (possibly). I then set my three CMs to zonally mark the six yard box, meaning I had three man markers and three zonal markers. Half and half - sounds balanced to me! I immediately noticed we were getting our heads to corners more regularly, which I was really happy with.

I paused a few minutes later to check under the hood, as it were, and I was happy, just as I was with what I'd seen. We were still doing well in both defensive and attacking phases, restricting Madrid to set pieces and the odd long shot and creating chances ourselves. Here are a few screenshots of what I looked at.

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Their chances compared to ours. Only a slight margin but theirs was from a set piece, which I felt I had sorted out at this point, and we had created two good openings from open play and forced Casillas into two good saves, whereas Oblak had yet to make a save. I was happy with this as we were doing well in defence and attack, and I really want that balance. I haven't really discovered my identity as a manager yet, so to speak, but balance is definitely part of my philosophy, if I even have one. I guess I'm pragmatic.

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Shots comparison. This is probably about equal to be fair, but at least two of their shots, the goal by Ronaldo and Varane's effort, were from corners. Ronaldo's other one from distance was either a FK or just a dip from range but either way it didn't trouble us. Not sure about Bale's... As for ours, I'd say we had four quality efforts, the furthest of which being from Mario Suarez in the first minute. Garcia had a great chance from around the penalty spot, Koke had one from a tight angle, and then there was a shot from range by Mario Suarez saved by Casillas. I was happy with this too.

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Then I looked at passes, and I was really pleased with this. As you can see, Real are mostly playing centrally: I can't say I'm forcing them to do this because I haven't employed any TIs, but they've not really troubled us with these passes. Quite a few of them are sideways which is good, and we have three in the midfield of the pitch to break up play if they want to play so narrow. Also just one passes made it into our box, and they had just one key pass, which I reckon was that one by Modric, although a key pass might be a pass leading to a shot? In which case it could have been one made to Bale before his shot as seen above. I was pleased with the way we restricted the passing of their front three: Benzema with just 38.5% success rate, Ronaldo a bit better at 71.4% but they only made 10 passes between each other, and Bale only made two! However, I should remember that they're dangerous as dribblers first, so I probably should've checked the movement statistics more closely. Something to think about.

As for our passing, I was pleased. Just two outfield players under 85% completion rate meant we were doing well in general with playing sensible passes and finding our men, but Siqueira was struggling a bit, with Ronaldo/Bale hassling him and Griezmann/Koke not always offering an option, I think. Wasn't sure about Arda's lower rate, tbh. As for Oblak, I was fine with him going long for now, as we were often winning the second ball. He may not have been completing many long kicks, as in finding a man first time, but I wasn't concerned: though the stats told me otherwise, my eyes told me that his long balls were allowing us to gain a foothold higher up the pitch, as we were winning it on the second ball quite often, which is something the stats don't show. Our midfield is a bit more combative than theirs which helps. Also three key passes compared to their one, which seemed to be mostly out wide for us. Finally I was pleased with the spread of the passes, and the fact that we had a range of distance on them. Most of the players were equally well-involved although Griezmann wasn't as much. Another thing to think about, although I only notice that now that I'm writing it up 25 minutes later at HT!

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Finally, average positions. As you can see they're very narrow, which tallies with the passing chart. However I also have to remember that their wide players were swapping, and if they spent an equal amount of time on each wing, even hugging the touchline, their average position would come up exactly central (I would assume so anyway), so that was something to remember. However I had the passes map to back that up, and this was all just serving to reinforce and inform what I had already seen. Either way, quite congested. Interesting to note that Marcelo had covered the most ground in their team... and look at the gap between him and Ramos compared to the other side between Carvajal and Varane... like I said before the game, what with Marcelo's marauding runs there might be space for Arda to exploit! I've genuinely only just noticed this and I'm really excited that I noted something before the game which might well come to fruition. Writing this all out is seriously helpful!

As for our shape, I'm reasonably happy with that. My two main causes for concern were the gap between my lines of midfield and defence and Gabi's positioning. He's way too close to Mario Suarez for my liking and not close enough to the defenders. I didn't do anything about it for now, but I wanted to observe it. I wondered if it might be as a result of the battle I marked down pre-match: Modric vs Gabi. Perhaps Gabi's having to move across from his central position to shut down Modric, who is playing on the left of Real's midfield. It seemed to make sense to me at the time, and with that my 20 minute analysis was complete, and I was happy to switch to Comprehensive.

28 minutes: Another big chance for us, originating from a throw-in deep into Real's half. Juanfran took it on the right, and with help from Arda and Mario Suarez he got it back on the flank and whipped in a great cross to the near post. No Mandzukic, but there was Raul Garcia meeting the ball, powering the header onto the bar! I was really pleased with this, as we worked it well and created a really dangerous opening, with the CWB (A) and CF (S) combining as I'd like them to as well as completing their own individual roles well. Maybe if it had been Mandzukic it'd be 1-1.

32 minutes: Real's first real chance from open play comes from a link-up between Bale, drifting from the left, and Benzema. Bale turned and Benzema found space, with Gabi not tracking his run, and Benzema had a clear view of goal from the edge of the box, with Godin and Miranda possibly too far apart. However Benzema's left footed strike was tipped wide by Oblak and we handled the corner well.

35 minutes: 1-1! I don't remember celebrating a goal this much before, even though I hardly designed the passage of play myself in terms of how we scored it (I'd like us to score all kinds of goals - flexibility and balance are what I'm looking for, I suppose). A really simple goal, Koke picked the ball up in a deep area and contrary to his PPM of Plays Simple Passes he hit a superb pass over their high line for Raul Garcia who had made the run off the shoulder (I'm very happy that the CF (S) still does that despite his usual inclination to drop deeper). We beat their offside trap perfectly and Raul Garcia slotted the finish past Casillas. Thrilled with that, the players are dictating the moves we make, with their styles, strengths and roles enough to define our play and carve out chances. I'm really pleased!

40 minutes: I don't think anything happened here, but in my notes I observed how we'd had more shots on target and more chances so I wanted to demonstrate that we were more than going toe-to-toe with Real. I also noted our 4 long shots compared to their 0, despite the fact that we'd had the same number of shots (9). I wasn't very happy about this, to be honest. But on we go...

45+1 minutes: 2-1 Atletico! It was a penalty but I'm pleased with the way we won it, Arda Turan came roaming inside and was fed inside a pretty crowded penalty area. He still found the space though and managed to provoke the defender (I should have taken note of who it was, it may have been Marcelo...) into fouling him and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped, er, Guilherme Siqueira... and he smashed it high into the roof of the net! Casillas no chance.

The half time whistle went soon after, and that's where I am now. I'm going to carry on playing, and then report back afterwards. I might well lose the game because I've missed something (I should really do some analysis at HT now, similar to what I did at 22 minutes) but it's a learning process. Happy with this so far!

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I like following this thread, and especially your thought process behind the tactical set up. Good stuff :).

With regards your Plan C counter attack tactic, are you perhaps getting a little distracted? You start off at Plan A as your main tactic, with one TI (although potentially others added as matches progress), ending up with Plan C using 10 (!) TIs. That's quite a lot and it might perhaps be a good process to review them all to make sure they are all needed?

Setting a "Counter" mentality sets up actions by default, such as: your team will play narrower, deeper defensive line, less closing down, lower tempo, defenders more likely to clear or pass long, midfielders play shorter passes - but when a Counter attack actually happens your team automatically becomes more attack minded with more direct passing, higher tempo and so on.

I'm not saying your TI set up is wrong by any means, I'd just be interested in your thoughts on your Counter tactic given how the Counter mentality plays by default.

Looking forward to the Real result :).

Thanks very much :)

That occurred to me as well, and to be honest I'm not even sure I'll switch to Plan C. It's helped me insomuch as it's made it clear which TIs I want to use if I want to play on the counter, although as you say some of them might be overkill. I wonder if I might need to pick one or the other: either choose Counter and few/no TIs, or all of the TIs and Standard/Flexible so that I know exactly what I'm changing. I'm not so sure and it all depends on how it goes with my standard tactic, particularly against bigger sides, although it's going quite well at the moment vs Real! I also wanted to have another formation up my sleeve and I didn't think it would help to have one completely the same as my standard tactic. I'm certainly open to change though and I'm definitely trying to figure things out still, and will be for a while. Thanks for your thoughts!

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Great read!!! Although I think it's cruel to give us only the first half especially with the game tied 1-1 like some HBO end of series cliffhanger. Hurry up and finish!!!!!!

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Great read!!! Although I think it's cruel to give us only the first half especially with the game tied 1-1 like some HBO end of series cliffhanger. Hurry up and finish!!!!!!

Cheers! I'm going to write up the second half of the game now, it might take me some time though so you'll have to remain on the edge of your seat for a little while longer...

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Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid - Supercopa First Leg: Second Half and Reflections

So we went in 2-1 up and I was very pleased with our performance, we went toe-to-toe with the European champions (as Atletico did last season, I know I know) and I'd say we deserved the lead. I checked some things in analysis, though, and I was a little concerned.

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As you can see from the shots comparison, they were having some shots in good areas (dunno what that weird one's about) and they were definitely matching us in that respect. As for us, still decent but like I said I wasn't happy about the long shots. I have a few options here long-term: adjust PPMs (Griezmann has Shoots From Distance), adjust PI for the players who shoot or add Work Ball Into Box. I'd like to avoid the latter as I feel like it would lower our tempo and I like the tempo we're playing at. I'd just like the players to hold onto the ball if they see no other option, or to choose the passing options if they're at a distance. Maybe some of them were FKs, in which case I suppose it's good that we're drawing them into fouls.

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We're still making more key passes with 6, but they've now made 4 as opposed to 1 so it seems like they're coming into it more, especially Kroos. Plus their dangermen are doing better than they were at 22 minutes, so maybe I need to be more concerned about them. They're also making use of the wide areas more, I think. As for us, I would have liked us to be more prominent in and around (how Andy Townsend of me) their box, and I'm a little concerned by the failed passes in our own box. It seems like we're being put under more pressure now, even if we're not conceding too many chances because of it.

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And here are the chances. We've had four which I'm pleased with, two clear-cut, while they've had their goal and the Benzema chance I spoke of earlier. So despite the fact that Real seem to be threatening more, we're not giving them chances. That's good!

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I decided to take a look at the interceptions for a little more detailed and subtle analysis if possible. I've looked at it before and just went "Yep, cool, we're getting the ball back and stuff" but never really gained anything from it. Here though I noted that, while we were making most of ours in central areas (possibly due to Real wide players cutting inside and certainly due to our flat 5 in midfield), Real were making a few in advanced areas. They were pressing us and we were trying to play out defence, so I guess that's a combination of the two and possibly something we could get caught out on.

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And finally a look at average positions. Mostly similar to 22 mins; the gap between Marcelo and his CB remains, and he continues to cover as much ground as anyone. They're still pretty central which is good, although maybe I don't want the wide players to have too much space in front of my defence to get shots away. It's impossible to stop though because they keep switching: if I ask my players to show Bale, who's often at LW, onto his left, to force him wide and deal with the threat, he'll swap to the right, and cut onto his left and score. Bit annoying.

I didn't do anything at HT, mostly because I thought we were doing pretty well but also because I wasn't sure what changes would be needed if I wanted to address anything I'd thought about. As well as that, some of those points have only just properly occurred to me... On with the game!

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46 minutes: Drama! Just a minute of the second half gone, and Real are down to ten men, and I'm really happy with how it came about. We worked the ball really well on the left hand side, with Koke, Gabi and Griezmann linking up nicely before Koke spread the play to Mario Suarez, who was in acres of space (reminds me of Guardiola talking about creating overloads on one side to disorganise a defence before switching play and finding the space, or something to that effect I think - can you tell I've been reading?). Garcia had dropped deep, but Griezmann was in loads of space if Suarez saw the diagonal, whereas on the other side Arda was ready to run in behind Marcelo if Suarez could thread the pass in the space. As it turned out, he didn't fancy doing either, and tried to turn and shield the ball as Ramos approached - he'd been forced into action in a one-on-one situation, either leaving space behind or allowing my player to dictate play - but Ramos dived (dove?) in with two feet and off he went. I would have preferred to have scored from the dangerous position but I was happy enough with numerical superiority.

Now I had to see how Real dealt with it, and interestingly enough they went strikerless, taking off Benzema and slotting Musacchio into Ramos' CB position. Didn't know what to make of that, tbh, and I guess I should have done something to react, but I really didn't know what to do. I thought we would take control though.

47 minutes: It's only been a minute but time to check the stats. It looks to me like we're doing really well, superior in every aspect. Oh, it's a highlight. Ah, free kick for Bale. Edge of the area. 2-2. Huh.

Over the next few minutes Real had a few decent opportunities, worked in different ways. Bale went on a mazy run, with players shepherding but not hassling, before seeing his shot saved comfortably but from a dangerous area. He had a header over after Marcelo got it from a throw-in. He had a free kick saved. And Ronaldo had a decent shot saved. Then, all of a sudden, another long ball over the top and Raul Garcia was in again! This time, however, he couldn't finish, and Casillas tipped it over. Nice to threaten but not nice to be on the back foot. Again, I probably should have made a change but I just wasn't sure what to do - I didn't want to open up even more.

The game passed by from then pretty much, with a change or two for each side not really impacting the game (neither J-Rod or C-Rod had much influence) and there was only time for one more decent opportunity for Real, and it finished 2-2.

Conclusion

I was really happy at HT, I felt like we'd been the better side and after Ramos was sent off the stats reflected our dominance. So, given that we were 2-1 up and a man up, I'm not only disappointed that we drew 2-2 but really frustrated that we could have lost it, and probably should have. I just didn't know how best to gain control of the match, especially given Real's strikerless tactic which kind of bamboozled me. That's definitely something to work on although I guess it was a tricky game at the Bernabeu. I stopped the game at 67 minutes, halfway through the 2nd half, for some checks in analysis, but I didn't really learn much I don't think. My main aim is to be more proactive in future and to know what to change and when. All in all, though, not a bad start.

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Great detailed analysis there.

I have said this a few times lately, and i think others have echoed it - Do not get too caught up with heat maps. They show "average" positions, which in itself is a little misleading. You have already noted the issue with "position swapping" player types, but one other way to look at it:

When i set up my team, i have 2 things in mind. One is my defensive shape, which is set by my formation and its how we will shape up when we do not have the ball. Two is my atttacking shape (including transition, which is another layer, but keeping it relatively simple for the point i am trying to make here) - how our shape will look when we have the ball and are attacking.

Now, consider a game where possession happens to be exactly 50/50. What will a heat map show me? It will show me the average position, which will actually show me neither my attacking shape or my defensive shape! In the 50/50 example it will probably show my players on a heat map exactly half way between attacking shape and defensive shape - That information is of limited use to me.

I think its far more valuable to use the 3d match view, and pause it a few times when you are in possession and when you are out of it. Use a camera view which allows you to see most of the pitch, and identify where your players are in each shape. This will give you a much truer picture of whether you have issues with "gaps between the lines" (which i believe in itself is a bit of a fallacy - but thats personal opinion :) ). Interestingly the final screenshot there starts to show a bit of this. It shows you have what i assume are 2 wide men nicely ahead of possesion and breaking into the box. I am guessing here, but presumably the guy next to Koke is your striker, who has come deep in this move.

I would suggest giving that a try, but its to take nothing away from your excellent and really detailed analysis, including great opposition scouting and decision making in terms of how to deal with a selection problem (the missing strikers).

Keep up the good work, brilliant reading so far:thup:

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Great detailed analysis there.

I have said this a few times lately, and i think others have echoed it - Do not get too caught up with heat maps. They show "average" positions, which in itself is a little misleading. You have already noted the issue with "position swapping" player types, but one other way to look at it:

When i set up my team, i have 2 things in mind. One is my defensive shape, which is set by my formation and its how we will shape up when we do not have the ball. Two is my atttacking shape (including transition, which is another layer, but keeping it relatively simple for the point i am trying to make here) - how our shape will look when we have the ball and are attacking.

Now, consider a game where possession happens to be exactly 50/50. What will a heat map show me? It will show me the average position, which will actually show me neither my attacking shape or my defensive shape! In the 50/50 example it will probably show my players on a heat map exactly half way between attacking shape and defensive shape - That information is of limited use to me.

I think its far more valuable to use the 3d match view, and pause it a few times when you are in possession and when you are out of it. Use a camera view which allows you to see most of the pitch, and identify where your players are in each shape. This will give you a much truer picture of whether you have issues with "gaps between the lines" (which i believe in itself is a bit of a fallacy - but thats personal opinion :) ). Interestingly the final screenshot there starts to show a bit of this. It shows you have what i assume are 2 wide men nicely ahead of possesion and breaking into the box. I am guessing here, but presumably the guy next to Koke is your striker, who has come deep in this move.

I would suggest giving that a try, but its to take nothing away from your excellent and really detailed analysis, including great opposition scouting and decision making in terms of how to deal with a selection problem (the missing strikers).

Keep up the good work, brilliant reading so far:thup:

Cheers Jambo! I hadn't thought of the average positions like that before - it's definitely part of my thinking that your defensive shape and attacking shape should be different, with the former being much more structured and the latter a little more free, which is something I picked up from threads by yourself and SFraser I think, but it didn't quite occur to me that this was relevant to the average positions, which is of course true. Pausing in-game to analyse positions is definitely something I need to do more of, although whether I can be perceptive in analysing those situations is something I'm not sure about. Practice makes perfect and I'll try to do that and write about it in here so I can improve on that.

Thanks very much for the kind words. I've played one more match, the first league match away to Rayo, so I'll play a little further tonight and write up how things went in that first match now.

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Rayo vs Atletico Madrid: Trial and Error With Limited Success

I considered my first game against Real to be a success, albeit one which was tempered somewhat by frustratingly losing control of the game when Real went down to ten men, so I didn't want to change anything in my tactic just yet, especially as it was quite a specific game, and the things that I observed in that game might not occur in different games. So I went in with the same tactic as I started with against Real in the Supercopa first leg.

The game was just three days after the 2-2 with Real, so I had a lot players with less than 90% condition. I decided to heavily rotate, and ended up with a slightly makeshift side. This was as follows: Oblak; Ansaldi, Gamez, Godin, Siqueira; Garcia, Suarez, Saul, Koke, Griezmann; Correa. The roles were GK; CWB, CD, CD, WB; WM, BBM, DLP, AP, W, F9 (the only change due to Correa's style and the fact that I still wanted a deep-lying kind of striker) and that's the order I'll list them in from now on if I haven't done a screenshot (which I probably won't in future). I didn't do much analysis of Rayo because they were the type of team I would expect to beat with minimum fuss, and I wanted us to focus on imposing our own game on them. In retrospect, I could have chosen Control over Standard here in order to do that, but I wanted to see how things went without making chances to begin with, something detailed in Cleon's mega-thread of articles.

Into the game I went, and I wasn't pleased with how we performed. After 8 minutes we had had just 39% possession (I had scribbled "TOO MANY AIMLESS LONG BALLS") and had conceded too many threatening shots for my liking, while not registering many of our own (I don't have the exact stats for this). We were being pushed too far back and weren't being considerate with the ball when we won it back, meaning we remained under pressure. I chose Shorter Passing rather than switching the mentality to Control (in hindsight perhaps a mistake) because I wanted just a small tweak to our passing and to see how that would affect us. Although I do want to win every game, I guess this also has to be a learning experience so I will experiment with a few things, although nothing revolutionary unfortunately.

3 minutes later (perhaps not long enough but it seemed like an age while watching on Full Match) I checked under the bonnet to see our passing maps...

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This is clearly a bit, well, rubbish. They were playing a good number of successful passes in dangerous, or at least advanced, areas, while we were doing the complete opposite, with most of our attempted passes either long vertical passes from deep or pointless short sideways passes. I didn't wait to see if Shorter Passing alone fixed that, as I felt we needed a bigger change. We were building play from too deep to get into dangerous areas (although I could have simply allowed Rayo to keep possession and instead looked to hit them on the counter, as I did against Dundee, although we were conceding quite a few half chances by sitting back as it was) and there were so many things I was unhappy with that I unticked Shorter Passing and chose Control, switching from Standard. I wanted us to impose ourselves on the game, pushing higher up and being more assertive, and I decided I preferred simply changing the team's mentality rather than adding a few different TIs, like Push Higher Up, Shorter Passing etc, as I decided that was what Control would do.

This really worked in bringing us into the game and controlling it more. From this point, 11 minutes, until half-time, I noted eight efforts on goal of note, seven of which were ours, and my notes included the phrases "Working ball better", "Pinning them back" and "We seem dominant now - they can't get out". I also noted at this point, 17 minutes in, that we had now had 53% possession, in stark contrast to the earlier 39%. I checked the analysis of the passing at 20 minutes (no screenshot, possibly a mistake as it helps to reflect) and was sufficiently pleased to switch to Comprehensive highlights.

I still wasn't very satisfied at HT, though, because, although we were the dominant force in the game, we still weren't creating good quality opportunities and I felt we needed to be more incisive and more direct. I decided to switch from Control back to Standard (probably a mistake) and added Play Narrower, Higher Tempo and Push Higher Up. The latter was designed to keep us dominant and keep pinning them back, while Higher Tempo was designed to make us more direct and incisive without resorting to hoofing the ball forwards aimlessly (see earlier) and Play Narrower is one I like because it brings my wide players, two of my main goal threats, closer to the goal and more able to make runs in behind the defence in the channels between CD and full back.

Rayo then proceeded to have a few chances in a sustained period of pressure on 53 minutes, so I decided to switch back to Control and take off Play Narrower. The reason for the first move was obvious, correcting what was a mistake earlier which saw us give up some of our dominance, despite pushing higher up. Tbh I can't quite remember why I took off Play Narrower as it was two days ago now... oops. In my defence I was running out of space in my notes...

The game passed by for a while without any chances of note, before a miniature flurry of activity in the last two minutes. In the 89th, Cristian Rodriguez (C-Rod from here on in) had a goal disallowed before Raul Garcia, the wide midfielder on the opposite side to C-Rod, smashed home in similar fashion at the back post from a cross from the opposite flank, and this time the offside flag didn't go up. 1-0 it was and 1-0 it remained.

As you can tell from the title of this post, though, I wasn't very pleased despite the win, and felt the result covered obvious issues, mainly that we weren't anywhere near as dominant as I would expect or want from a game like this. The stats reflect that, on a simple level at least, with 15 shots apiece, 5 on target for us and 6 for them, and possession stats of 51% for us and 49% for them. I was happy to get three points, as I still really want to be successful, but the most important thing is to learn and I really want to make sure I don't lose sight of that, as I'm trying to improve so that I can enjoy the game long term.

Conclusions

My main conclusion is that I'll probably have to approach these games differently. By 'these games' I mean away games against lower opposition, as I expect that these teams will look to play on the front foot more than they would if they came to Vicente Calderon for our home games. I think this means we'll have two choices: let them dominate, sit back and hit them on the counter, or select Control and don't allow them to dominate the game. Although I enjoy scoring a good counter attack, I think as a manager I prefer dominating games. I don't like sitting back and dealing with shots and headers for the opposition; I'd much prefer to be dominating ourselves with the odd counter-attack to defend, so I think I will select Control in away games against smaller teams from now. I'll also need to think about how to make us more incisive in those situations, as I wasn't thrilled with the chances we were creating or the shots we were having when we were dominating with Control.

Now it's time to play the Supercopa second leg, with what is sure to be a knackered team! Griezmann, Arda, Gabi, Miranda and Juanfran should be fresh, and I think Mandzukic will have fully recovered in time to play.

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Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid - Supercopa Second Leg: Match Analysis

I just finished playing this match, it's 1:30am and I have a driving lesson tomorrow at 9:30am, but I just have to write up the analysis of it now because I'm excited to discuss some parts of how I managed the match and I don't want to forget any of it, although my detailed minute-by-minute notes spanning two and a half pages of A4 would certainly help me recall most of my in-game thoughts.

This will probably be the longest post yet, because I have an entire game to discuss and many relevant screenshots to analyse. So I should get right to it!

Pre-match

As expected I still had tired players in the ranks, but those who were rested against Rayo had recovered a little from their first-leg exertions. As a result we lined up like so: Oblak; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Siqueira; Turan, Garcia, Gabi, Saul, Griezmann; Jimenez. I decided to drop Correa for the returning Jimenez (Manduzkic is still out) partly because Correa had disappointed me vs Rayo and partly because I felt it was too big a responsibility for the youngster, especially since I wanted our ST to hold play up against two strong CBs in Pepe and Varane (Ramos suspended) in order to help us build up play if we went long to him. Jimenez is only 23 but I definitely trusted him more and this was a big game, despite it being only the Supercopa.

I didn't analyse Real's squad or tactics in the run-up to the game, as I had done this for the previous leg, but I noted in the actual build-up that they had changed from their usual 4-3-3 to a 4-1-4-1: Casillas; Carvajal, Varane, Musacchio, Coentrao; Illarramendi; Rodriguez, Modric, Kroos, Bale; Ronaldo. Benzema was on the bench, with Ronaldo up front in a lone role and James Rodriguez coming in. My first thought was how similar it was to my own 4-1-4-1 counter attacking tactic in terms of personnel and potential roles. In fact, I could see them all fulfilling the exact same roles I chose. Bale W (A), Rodriguez WM (A), Kroos CM (A), Modric DLP (S) and Ronaldo CF (S). Maybe there'd be a few adjustments but I was happy about this for two reasons. 1. I'd clearly chosen logical roles for my own counter tactic, at least in the eyes of the AI (although maybe I should be aiming higher than that...) and 2. I knew how the tactic was meant to behave. I expected Real to be a little less offensive and the 4-1-4-1 in my eyes indicated that, although this can of course be an offensive set-up if it's set up as such. However, I expected Real to be cautious, look to play on the counter (one of their strengths) and allow us to be the more prominent side in possession. This was exactly how it panned out.

The Match

After 7 minutes, we had our first opening of the match, with BBM Raul Garcia volleying wide from a decent position around the corner of the box. The opportunity had come from a throw-in and I noted that building play down the flanks was considerably easier than trying to do so centrally, because Real's full backs are attacking and the wide players are too. So I decided to be proactive and be brave (for my standards at least), and I chose the TI "Exploit the Flanks", aiming to focus our play out wide. We have two very strong players there in Griezmann and Arda so I thought this would be successful.

After 10 minutes I checked the stats. This is something I do regularly but I think it's also good to have specific times to check as well - a bit like when driving and you check your mirror every now and then but definitely when you change speeds or whatever. So I decided to try to look every ten minutes, and upon my first look I was pretty pleased. 2 shots to their 1, 1 on target to their 0, and most importantly 58% possession. As I expected we were dominating possession without needing to do much ourselves to make that happen, although I had to remember that this was probably what Real wanted. I was pleased though because we were dominating possession without having to open up to do so, meaning less space for them to exploit on the counter.

A minute later I had an idea when Jimenez, who hadn't done much at this point, took on a very optimistic shot having dropped deep. It occurred to me that the Complete Forward role is one which requires a really good, all-round forward, and Mandzukic, who fits that more or less, is unavailable, leaving me with less rounded players. Jimenez has a decent skillset but does not excel at anything, so I thought I could change the role to focus more on his work off the ball than making something happen on the ball. I considered F9, DLF (S) and DF (S), and eventually went with the latter because I felt it combined hold-up play with off-the-ball movement and pressurising the defence, which were three things I wanted from the role. I wanted him to create space for others and bring them into play, rather than looking to do things himself, and I thought back to Stephan Guiv'arch (spelling?) of the French WC winning squad in '98. He was nowhere near as good as his supporting cast but he played his part by being selfless and bringing others into play, which is what I wanted from my equally-not-as-gifted striker, whom I had now nicknamed Jim for speed of note-taking purposes.

In the 12th minute we continued to put pressure on Real, working the ball out wide again and winning a couple of corners. Godin's header from the second corner was saved, which reminded me: I have to organise attacking set pieces, although I'm not sure how. I have my priorities though and I'm more interested in making us good from open play. Then I can focus on maximising our chances of scoring by fine-tuning how we attack corners and such.

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Time for the first screenshot! This was in the 12th minute and the first time I felt it important to take a snapshot of our play in-game. Here you see Griezmann with space to run into in behind the defence (if he times his run correctly, and it was well-timed, although that's hard to tell from just one picture) and the DF, Jim, on the ball having dropped deep - exactly what I want him to be doing. I wanted him then to feed Griezmann, splitting the FB and CB down the middle with a killer pass and setting up a quality chance. He didn't do this, however, and I wonder if that's because I chose the least creative option out of the striking roles I was considering. Something to think about, and maybe I could have added a PI to change his behaviour after that happened, but I didn't think to do that. It's all about training myself to think that way.

At 14 minutes, Real had their first foray into a dangerous area, winning a second ball from Casillas' direct goal kick and directly attacking our goal, with a cross coming in and being cleared for a corner. This was dealt with easily; nice to see our approach paying dividends against a side whom I've had trouble with in the past when defending corners.

A minute later at the 15 minute mark I was happy with our play, and the statistics reflected a marginal dominance: 4 shots to 1, 2 on target to 0, 61% to 39% possession, with the latter the biggest indicator of us in the ascendency (although I'm wary to conflate possession with dominance as we could just be passing it around aimlessly with no pressure on us but not penetrating). It was at this point that I was happy to switch to Comprehensive. I was also struck by a thought as I watched a highlight: if I ticked Play Wider to go with Exploit The Flanks, could this make my BBM play closer to my WM and my AP closer to my W, making it easier for us to create overloads in the wide areas? This is something I wanted to achieve, but for the time being I was happy leaving it as it was, particularly as I didn't want to change our shape entirely, as we'd been solid defensively too.

As soon as I'd changed to comprehensive, Real seemed to be coming into it. They had several highlights in the remainder of the half, having several more shots than they did in the opening exchanges. Many of these were long shots, though, and I'm always happy for my opponent to have more of these than me, as I personally think it means they're struggling to create, although sometimes they can be the result of poor decision making, which was often the case for Real in this half. I was, however, worried by the runners that Real had off the ball during counter attacks, with Kroos and Bale in particular looking to burst into space. I didn't address this as it was something I saw in just one highlight, so I didn't want to be too knee-jerk.

We then had a good chance to take the lead through Jim. We worked it well out wide, a feature of our play all game (thanks, Exploit The Flanks) and Siqueira crossed for Jim at the near post, who headed over from fairly close range. A good chance missed but promising that we were creating it, and with that the half ended.

Saul had picked up a knock five minutes prior to HT, and I decided to take him off, as I don't like keeping on players with niggles, for fitness and performance reasons. I brought on Koke, changing a player with 66% condition for one with 85%, which should last him the rest of the game. I quickly observed the stats: 9/3 (shots/on target) vs 8/2 in the shots department was decent, although hardly much better, although they had had five long shots compared to our two. Possession saw us with 54% compared to 46% for Real.

Benzema now entered the fray, with James Rodriguez subbed after an ineffectual half. Ronaldo moved to right wing, and Real pushed their wide players up to revert to their usual 4-3-3, and I sensed that they would be more aggressive and offensive in this half. Instantly, Bale crossed for Benzema to head into Oblak's hands from a decent position, with the number 9 taking up a more orthodox striking role, as opposed to Ronaldo in the first half, who had been quite isolated I think.

A minute after the half began, I noted that Real did indeed seem more offensive, with their style in the match reflecting what I suspected from the formation change. I decided to fight fire with fire, continuing to try being proactive, changing from standard to control. I wanted to stop Real gaining control of the match by being more controlling ourselves. Real then had a couple of efforts saved, a Ronaldo shot and a Bale header from the resulting corner, but neither were chances which concerned me too much. Now time for another screenshot!

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Look at the space Arda is in! Reflected by my notes: "ARDA IN SO MUCH SPACE!" The pass from Raul Garcia, I think, found him in that space, and he shot after his first touch, but Coentrao had shuffled across and blocked. I was really pleased to have been in such a dangerous position, though.

The next thing of note to happen was a minute later as Siqueira, following Bale to the left on a counter attack (I think), made a diving tackle from behind. He won the ball, but as he was on a yellow I was concerned, and asked him to Calm Down with the new touchline team talk feature. Not really tactical but I thought it'd be worth noting. Just an example of me trying to improve my attention to detail.

At this point, just before the hour mark, I noted that their overlapping FBs were cause for concern, Coentrao at this moment in time in particular. Nothing came of it and I didn't change my approach, but I thought it was worth noting, both in my notes and on here.

We were continuing to threaten down the flanks, winning corners (which would be of more use once we find a good way to attack them) but I was then worried by how much space Bale had on the counter attack in behind Siqueira (who of course couldn't risk a tactical foul). See screenshot below...

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I probably should have put some thought into whether I should change Siqueira's role to a more conservative one, but I simply noted the danger and left things as they were. I didn't want to make a change based on one part of one passage of play, I suppose.

On the hour mark I then noted how Jim was doing well as the DF, holding up the ball after a clearance was aimed at him by our defenders, relieving the pressure on us and not allowing them to come straight back at us, and helping us to build the move. I was pleased with this.

Five minutes later came another passage of play which I liked: Arda Turan roamed inside to create acres of space for Juanfran after Coentrao followed my right midfielder. Juanfran, my CWB, was in masses of space very far forward, and I was happy that he was able to get a cross in from a dangerous position, continuing the theme of us threatening from out wide. The first cross was cleared back to Juanfran, who put it back into a better area at the back post, from which Griezmann headed wide. Here's the initial space he was in:

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At 68 minutes I checked the stats habitually, and we were shading possession, with 52% to 48%. Neither side had had many shots of note, mostly harmless shots from range (although more on their part) so I didn't pay too much attention to shots at this point. Although Benzema then had a decent chance from Casillas' drop kick, winning it initially and then out-muscling my CB to get a good shot away from the edge of the area saved by my goalkeeper. The first CCC of the game.

No matter: we went one better two minutes later, with Antoine Griezmann scoring to make it 1-0! I was really pleased with this goal - so much so that I screenshotted five or six different moments in the build-up! I felt like it reflected everything I wanted us to do, as a team in this game specifically and as individuals in the roles I set up. Plus it was a cool goal.

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A throw-in on the left after we built up down that side.

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The ball is given back to Siqueira, keeping us focused on wide play, and he whips it into a dangerous area.

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It's cleared, only as far as Arda - we are keeping them penned in with our Control mentality - and he returns it to Gabi.

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Gabi plays it quickly to AP Koke, who is ready to supply the killer pass...

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Koke does so, seeing Griezmann in space, with Carvajal the RB occupied by Jimenez the DF...

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And Griezmann applies the finish!

I was really happy with this because 1. It came from us focusing originally on the flanks, after my Exploit The Flanks TI earlier and 2. My players executed their individual roles: Gabi helping build play from deep, Koke supplying the final ball and Griezmann finding space, making runs and being a direct threat on goal. Very happy with this, as well as the swiftness with which we moved.

Five minutes later I brought Raul Garcia off for Mario Suarez in a like-for-like BBM swap. This was simply a case of fresh legs, and although I had many candidates with several players around 65% condition I chose Raul Garcia because being able to run at a high intensity for long periods of time is crucial to the BBM, probably more to that role than any other. At this point I wondered whether I should change mentality, but I was firm in my decision to stay with Control. I didn't want to sit back and invite pressure, so I chose to try to keep control of the game. I did think Real would switch to an even more attacking mentality but decided not to second-guess and stayed with what I had. I was a little worried by Carvajal threatening on the overlap though.

With ten minutes left, we had a big chance. Siqueira overlapped, with our play again focused out wide, and his cross was into a great area and caused a big problem for Real. Jim had found space in the area and controlled it before shooting powerful from close range. A combination of Casillas and the bar denied him, and it was a great save, but a more clinical striker would have made that 2-0. Shame we don't have Mandzukic, although I've been cautiously pleased with Jimenez today anyway. The ball was then cleared, only as far as Juanfran, who's high up due to the offensive mentality of the team and his role as a CWB (A). This helped pin them back, which I was happy with.

Another thought occurred: with Real likely to go more attacking, the main change in how their players occupied the pitch was going to be their full backs committing further forward, I thought. This was likely to leave me lots of space in behind to exploit on the counter attack, so I definitely wanted to keep Exploit The Flanks.

Unfortunately with 82 minutes on the clock, Real grabbed an equaliser (though I still lead on away goals) and it disappointed me. We had Real in what I think was a decent position (for us I mean) deep out wide, and a fairly harmless-looking cross came in, although Benzema was lurking with intent...

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Unfortunately Diego Godin, the CB nearest the cross as it came in, failed miserably to deal with it, heading it backwards into the danger zone having not been in the best of positions to deal with the cross. This allowed Benzema to pounce on the loose ball and smash past Oblak from close range. Not sure there was much I could have done, although maybe on reflection we could have been narrower allowing our back four to be more compact in the box with less distance between each individual defender.

On 83 minutes, Real made the attacking switch I had been anticipating, bringing on another striker, Javier Hernandez, sacrificing the DM Illarramendi. 4-2-4: very attacking. I decided to stay as we were, for the time being. Two minutes later I brought on Correa for Jimenez, who'd run himself into the ground. Like Raul Garcia's role, Jimenez' role needed someone able to do a lot of running and I threw the youngster in because Jim was knackered. Good shift, despite his rating of 6.5. Harsh, FM.

At more or less the same time, I was really worried by Real in advanced positions, particularly their wide players, who were now playing very high up. This prompted me to change both full backs to FB (S) to make them more conservative.

Five minutes later on 90 minutes, I added Be More Disciplined. Simple stuff, when you're seeing out a game you want players to be sensible, not trying anything fancy and stick to the instructions given, although I had admittedly only one or two of those in terms of TIs.

I then added Play Narrower for several reasons. Firstly I wanted my full backs to tuck in, allowing less space for through-balls to be threaded in the channel between them and the CBs. This would force Real wide, and I'd rather defend crosses with my CBs than through balls for Bale and Ronaldo. I also wanted us to be more effective on the counter and I thought this, combined with already-active Exploit The Flanks, should see our wide players in dangerous areas if we get a chance to counter, which we should given Real's offensive approach and the space they'd be leaving.

Minutes later and I was happy with what I saw late into added time. Ronaldo was forced wide, and put in a poor left-footed cross. It was a bad decision as he could/should have passed, but we seemed in control of the situation due to forcing them wide and making them play bad crosses. See below:

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On reflection I note that our back four is relatively high up, with space in behind for Bale or Benzema or Hernandez to dart into and receive a better cross. This may be because the ball was in a deep area, but, given the fact that Real were already dominating, I could have switched to a more reserved mentality to allow my defence to be in better positions to deal with crosses and also to possibly make us more focused on counter attacking. As with everything I've mentioned, I'd love to hear people's thoughts on that.

After three minutes of added time and very little genuine threat from Real, the referee blew the whistle with the full-time score 1-1, 3-3 on aggregate, meaning we win on away goals. I'm very happy to have more than matched a fantastic Real Madrid side, and I feel we deserve the victory, even if it was on away goals. I'm also very happy with my decisions in the second leg: I learned my lesson from the first, being more proactive and I feel I managed to influence a lot of positive things from my side. Anyway it's 3am, an hour later than I planned to finish, and that's all I had written in my notes. Hope it wasn't too long, and I'd love to hear feedback on my decisions and stuff from anyone who managed to soldier through what appears to be an essay!

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I read the lot and it was really worth it! Good to see how you adapted during the game. Were Real a bit too compact to break through at times? Perhaps being proactive could have reduced the space you have to play in? It did seem to make you more competitive though.

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I read the lot and it was really worth it! Good to see how you adapted during the game. Were Real a bit too compact to break through at times? Perhaps being proactive could have reduced the space you have to play in? It did seem to make you more competitive though.

Thanks, I'm glad! I was on Comprehensive highlights for the majority of the game, so I didn't see many occasions of us struggling to break them down, but at the same time we didn't create too many good opportunities. I kind of expected this though, because of their quality, so I was happy to make a couple of decent chances and take one of them.

I've just played Eibar at home, and I'm going to write that match up today too. I'll probably continue to post about each match individually for some time now - it helps me so much to put my thoughts down on paper and try to explain my decisions, as well as getting feedback too. Soon things should start to click into place, though, as I identify patterns and make further strategic decisions about our standard approach. I certainly don't want to be having to micro-manage in games too much: I'd prefer to figure out a good way of starting the games so I don't have to fix problems during them. I'm getting there I think!

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Atletico Madrid vs Eibar - La Liga: Match Analysis

Having been pretty satisfied with our performances in the Supercopa, it was time to turn attentions back to the league, where so far we'd been a bit less impressive, scraping a 1-0 win away to Rayo which probably should have been a draw. We played a similar opponent in our second league match, but this time we were at home.

Pre-match

While Rayo had been quite open and attacking when we played them away, I expected Eibar to sit back and allow us to dominate. I didn't think they would want to open up, and I thought they would look to keep numbers behind the ball and hit us on the counter attack. I checked their expected formation, which was a 4-2-3-1 with two DMs. This backed up my expectations of them being compact off the ball, particularly looking to force us wide, although I wasn't too unhappy about that given how we'd done in wide areas against Real. With the expectation that Eibar would sit back and allow us to dominate, I continued with Standard, presuming we wouldn't need to impose ourselves to dominate and that if I did push forward that we might struggle to break them down, as a result of being too eager.

In terms of selection, I had a few decisions to make. The games had come thick and fast in this early stage of the season, with Match Fitness still not quite perfect, so those who had played against Real were quite tired. Out went Miranda, Saul, Arda, Griezmann and Jimenez, and in came Gamez, Koke, Suarez and Correa. This was how we lined up: Moya; Juanfran, Gamez, Godin, Siqueira; Garcia, Suarez, Gabi, Koke, Rodriguez; Correa. I was more willing to trust Correa in this match as we were at home, and I made him a False 9 as I thought it'd be more suited to a home game I was expecting to dominate, as his movement could help to break down a stubborn defence, with the BBM and W running beyond him from either side, as well as possibly the WM and AP.

The Match

As it turned out, Eibar not only had two DMs in their 4-2-3-1, but also dropped the wingers back to midfield, giving them even more protection. This concerned me as I worried we would have less space out wide to create overloads through our full-backs bombing on. After two minutes, however, we were in a good position going forwards, working it swiftly from Koke to Mario Suarez, who had found space in behind the midfield of Eibar. Here's a screenshot:

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I was encouraged by the space he was in, with Raul Garcia, the WM, looking to run in behind and I thought this could be dangerous. Nothing came of it, but it seemed a good early sign of us finding space and looking fairly threatening.

However, after 7 minutes I noted that we had become a bit sterile, not threatening when we had the ball and not hassling much out of possession, allowing Eibar to keep in control of the ball. I chose to add the TI Look For Overlap in an attempt to get my full backs more involved going forwards and to give us more numbers in attack without changing our overall mentality.

A minute later and the overlap was made, with Siqueira bombing forwards to cross. However, it was a poor ball in, with only Correa waiting for it, and it went nowhere near him anyway. I chose to add Work Ball Into Box, making us more patient and waiting for more players to be in good positions to find them, rather than trying to force the issue too much.

With 11 minutes gone, I was not happy with how Eibar were dominating possession. They hadn't had many shots of note, if any, but they had had 62% possession. I'm still discovering my identity as a manager but I know that I want us to dominate games against lower sides. It might be effective to sit back, be reactive and play on the counter-attack, but I prefer dominating the game by keeping possession and creating chances, pinning the opposition back. So I changed from Standard to Control, which had worked quite well against Rayo. I also unticked Work Ball Into Box because I didn't want us to become too ponderous on the ball.

Two minutes later and I noted that we were probing more, with Raul Garcia getting into a decent position and winning a corner. Five minutes after that, though, I made another change, albeit a small tweak. Correa was struggling to have an impact on the game, not doing well with his back to goal as he dropped deeper - he's not really a hold-up player, more a creative forward, so with that in mind I switched him to Trequartista. I wanted him to continue coming deep, maybe more so even, as well as roaming wide too, and to get him more involved.

Just before the 20 minute mark and I still wasn't happy: Eibar were continuing to enjoy the lion's share of possession and we weren't doing much to stop them, and it seemed like Control had made us more patient on the ball but hadn't impacted how proactive we were off the ball. So I chose to add some TIs to make us win the ball back more quickly, choosing to combine Push Higher Up, which would also help pin Eibar back, and Close Down More. I usually use those two in conjunction because it just seems to make sense to me.

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This was one of a couple of signs of our improvement, with Koke finding the overlapping Siqueira in a dangerous position to whip the cross in. I decided that we should be able to come into the game more now and impose ourselves, so I switched to Comprehensive highlights and waited to see if we would create some good opportunities. It was then Juanfran's turn to overlap, getting into a good position himself:

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Our first real chance came after that, and it fell to C-Rod, our left winger. He created it himself with a dangerous dribble, cutting inside from the edge of the box and going past defenders who were afraid to commit and give away a foul in a dangerous area. He ended up on his right foot though, so screwed the shot wide. This was promising.

On 38 minutes I noted that we'd been taking a few long shots and wasting possession in decent areas: 4, to be exact. I wasn't pleased with that, so I ticked Work Ball Into Box again to stop us from taking those pot-shots. We were still looking threatening with our overlaps, though, and I noted that we should start to create chances from those positions. I also wrote that, although Correa isn't great in the air, we can still send crosses in and pick up the second ball when Eibar clear, as we're pushing high up the pitch, so we could get into some dangerous positions even if our crosses are initially cleared.

That's exactly what happened, although that thought kind of occurred to me during the move from which we took the lead on 40 minutes, so maybe I'm cheating a bit there with my 'analysis'! Koke was the goalscorer as we went 1-0 up, and here are the screenshots of the move unfolding.

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Juanfran is in space initially having overlapped, with Raul Garcia narrow, and the full back crosses into the box, with Correa in a dangerous position on the penalty spot.

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The ball is cleared, but Juanfran picks it up again, passing to Mario Suarez in space. The middle man of my midfield is lurking in space, ready to supply the assist or pre-assist (something I meant to mention earlier is that I think my BBM should get quite a few pre-assists, maybe not quite so many direct assists but the pass before the assist is probably going to become his speciality).

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Suarez plays it on to Koke who has a little room in front of the area, and I'm pleased with how swiftly we're moving the ball - not being ponderous despite the Control mentality and the Work Ball Into Box TI.

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Koke controls, turns towards goal and smashes in an unstoppable effort from 20+ yards. A good move and one facilitated by a few of my TIs, mostly Look For Overlap (in the first phase of our attack before the original cross was cleared) and Push Higher Up, as we won the ball back after it was cleared and continued to pin them back. Even if Koke did kind of ignore my Work Ball Into Box shout... I'm pleased he did though, because I want my players to make intelligent decisions and he was in a good amount of space.

The final action of the half saw my enterprising full back Juanfran get injured, with Ansaldi replacing him just before half time. Going in 1-0 up, I was fairly happy, having adjusted to the pattern of the game appropriately, and we were now just shading possession, with our 52% compared to Eibar's 48%. In terms of shots/on target, we were 7/1 compared to their 1/0. We were still restricting them despite opening up more, but I wanted more shots on target. A few of our shots which missed the target were long shots before I'd ticked/re-ticked Work Ball Into Box, so I was hopeful that this would improve.

Onto the second half, and immediately we picked up where we left off, working the ball well in a wide area and dinking a clever cross into the box. Correa won this one in a good position, heading straight at the goalkeeper when he should have forced him into a more difficult save, but I was happy to create the opportunity and start the half well.

Things got even better a minute later, not that I can take credit for it! We had a free kick on the left, around the corner of their box, and Koke swung it in for Raul Garcia to head past the goalkeeper. A very simple goal and I didn't bother taking a screenshot because I had no influence on it and it was pretty straight-forward. 2-0 to us, and we were comfortable.

Or so I thought. Eibar had a free kick of their own on 53 minutes, in a dangerous central position about 25 yards out. It struck the wall, but there was a brief bit of chaos and a clumsy challenge from Gamez saw their player go down and win a penalty, with our CB booked for his troubles. Luckily for us, Derek Boateng smashed the penalty against the bar, and for some reason just stood there and watched as the rebound dribbled past him, before we cleared our lines. A bit of a let-off but I think we would have been unlucky to have conceded anyway. 2-0 it remained.

Correa was doing well as a T (A), with two good involvements on the hour mark. First he brought the ball forward and wide with little support, forcing a corner from what seemed like a difficult position. Then he dropped off the centre backs, received the ball, turned to face the goal before running at the defence and shooting low and just wide from the edge of the box. I was happy with his increasing level of influence on the game, and thought he might be able to get himself a goal soon.

Then at 65 minutes we had a shot on target in a decent area, and I noticed that we'd done really well to create the opportunity. I was so happy that I took almost as many screenshots as I did for the first goal, even though this was a comfortable save for their goalkeeper. Here's how it unfolded:

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Here we are focusing on the flanks, with our attack-minded full back helping to create an overload. Derek Boateng is near the top of the screen and is marking Mario Suarez, the furthest player to the left.

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We work the ball inside to Raul Garcia, at which point Boateng comes across to cover. This leaves Mario Suarez in space...

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Raul Garcia finds him, and Mario chests it down in a great area before shooting straight at the goalkeeper. I was very happy with this, because our overlapping full back helped us unsettle their defence. They were worried by our numbers on the right hand side, as we had created an overload, and once we had created chaos in their defence, we switched the play to where their spare man had moved across from. I was so pleased to see this, because it felt like a really methodical way of attacking.

In previous games, it's happened once or twice that my striker has dropped deep, turned to face the goal and seen a wide midfielder running in behind in space, but the striker hasn't picked the pass. This time my Trequartista, Angel Correa, did exactly what I wanted of him when C-Rod made an intelligent out-to-in run behind the full back. The striker found his winger, and we created a decent chance from it, with C-Rod firing just over. Here are some screenshots of the move developing:

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There are some inconsistencies with the scoreline in those screenshots (spoilers!) because I originally only took one of the shot, but I wanted to go back and capture the whole move.

On 70 minutes I was forced into another change, with Raul Garcia being fouled in a good position for a cross and not being able to continue. I had Arda Turan, my first choice RM, on the bench, but his condition was as low as 79%, so I decided to shift Koke to RM and brought Saul on as the AP (A). I decided to bring Arda on in a few minutes anyway as Koke was a bit tired too. I made that change on 78 minutes, and noted that we were still dangerous out wide. However, because of this, we were getting several corners which we were wasting - 8 to be exact - because I still hadn't set up our tactic for attacking corners. Given our tendency to build play from wide areas, this was becoming a priority and I decided to do this after the match. More on that later.

The game passed by without much happening until one final highlight with thirty seconds left. I thought the game was going to peter out with the free kick from C-Rod going miles over, but as it turned out he forced the goalkeeper to parry it, and Saul was there to tap in the rebound. Nice to see my young playmaker get on the score-sheet to make it 3-0, and that was the full time score.

Conclusions

In the end, I was pleased with our performance. The stats reflected a dominant performance: 18/6 shots/on target for us, while they had 4/0. Possession was 54% for us, 46% for them. Koke was MOTM, with a rating of 8.3. I made a note of how we finished the game tactically: Control mentality, with five TIs: Push Higher Up, Close Down More, Look For Overlap, Work Ball Into Box and Play Out Of Defence. This combination was pretty successful and next time I have a game similar to this I will start with these settings. Hopefully then we'll have a similar performance without the initial period of dominance for the away side at the beginning.

I then set about corners, and settled upon a set-up that I'm happy with. We're aiming for the Penalty Spot because it might tempt the goalkeeper to come out but he'll struggle to get there, and it gives those attacking the ball from deeper positions a chance to get there. Our full backs are set to stay back at all times to guard against the counter, with the CBs set to Attack Far Post and Attack Near Post. My DLP is asked to Lurk Outside Area, to either have a go with a long shot (or pick a measured pass back into the box, as Gabi did to help create Griezmann's goal vs Real) or to be in a good area to get back to his defensive position should we lose the ball. Our BBM, the more physical of the two CMs, is set to Attack Ball From Deep, also something which should see him in a similar position to his position in our formation, while the other CM, the AP (A), is set to Offer Short Option. That's going to be Koke 90% of the time I hope, and since one of the players will be taking a corner, I guess it's okay that he takes corners and nobody comes short, because we aren't going to go short; we're aiming for the penalty spot. I guess it could help to have two men there if it's cleared initially and we want to create an overload as we work it back in. Probably the easiest sacrifice to make though. The LM and RM are in opposite duties which should be able to combine well. The LM is asked to get a flick-on at the near post (something I can imagine Griezmann doing) with the RM is standing on the far post, and I can imagine Arda sneaking in at the back post to convert a flick-on from Griezmann. Finally my ST is asked to challenge the goalkeeper; this is something I usually do and I expect this player to be one of the better headers of the ball, which is certainly the case for Mandzukic. Not so much for Correa but I could work on that.

That's all I have to say about the Eibar match, hope some people managed to read it all and have some feedback. Next up: Real Madrid again! This time at home in the league. Also CL groups were drawn, and we're in with Leverkusen, Napoli and Red Bull Salzburg. Tough group I'd say.

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Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid – La Liga Matchday 3: Match Analysis

After two ‘easy’ games against bottom half teams, it was time for a different challenge, albeit one which we’d already been through in the Supercopa: Real Madrid away.

Pre-match:

The first decision I had to make was selection, and we’d finally had a bit of rest thanks to the international break, so most of our players had managed to recover by now. Arda was the only one of my first choice players below 95%, with 91% condition, and since it’s a big game I was tempted to use him anyway. However, I noted that we were travelling to Germany in midweek to face Leverkusen in the first CL group match, so I decided to save him. Juanfran was out following his injury in the previous game, and Mandzukic remained out, so it was my first choice team barring those three changes. This was how we lined up: Oblak; Gamez, Miranda, Godin, Siqueira; Garcia, Suarez, Gabi, Koke, Griezmann; Jimenez. I had a decision to make in terms of Jim’s role up front, and I went for the DF (S) which had served me reasonably well away to Rayo. This was because we were away from home and against a big side, so I wanted him to hassle them in possession and most importantly hold the ball up and offer an out-ball if we were being heavily pressured by Real, which I was anticipating.

The Match:

Real lined up in the 4-3-3 of the first leg, with mostly the same personnel. I think Arbeloa in at left back was the only change, with Marcelo and Coentrao lining up there in the Supercopa. I continued with the approach I began with in the first leg, as it served me well and I didn’t have to make too many changes until Real began to change their approach.

After five minutes, it had been an end-to-end game, although not as open as that sounds. The teams were taking it in turns to have the ball and probe forwards, although we had around 55% at this point, so were perhaps being slightly more patient. I was satisfied with this equality, because if either team seemed more dominant it would probably be us. I also noted that we were forcing them into fouls in their own half in midfield which could only be a good thing.

A thought also occurred to me about Mario Suarez’s role as a BBM. I wondered if I might change him to a BWM (S), using him as a weapon on the counter attack, tigerishly winning the ball back and getting forward before giving it to a more creative player like Raul Garcia or Koke. He was already doing some of that and doing it quite well, so I wondered if it would be a good idea to focus him even more on that. It would also keep the balance of the midfield, just making us a bit more proactive off the ball without sacrificing much of our shape. I decided to leave it but it was something to ponder.

After 7 minutes we went ahead, which I wasn’t expecting despite us starting the game well. I was thrilled though – it was a tap-in eventually but I really enjoyed how we worked it, and of course going 1-0 up at the Bernabeu is always cause for celebration. Here’s how the move unfolded:

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Mario Suarez wins the ball back from Bale, doing well in that BBM role. Jimenez is close by if he wants to go short, with Raul Garcia, the RM, ready to surge ahead of him as well.

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Mario sends it long towards the corner flag for Jim, our DF (S), to chase in an attempt to relieve the pressure and hopefully get players forward to threaten ourselves.

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Jim gets there comfortably and finds himself kind of isolated, but in the corner of the screen you can see Raul Garcia and Mario Suarez bursting forwards in support. Keep an eye on them.

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Jim moves forward, still waiting for support to arrive, before checking back and laying it off to Raul Garcia in space, with his marker, the LB Arbeloa, occupied with Jimenez having pulled wide into his zone.

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When Raul Garcia receives the ball, Arbeloa leaves Jimenez and follows the ball to his man, the right midfielder. Kroos and Benzema are around him too, I think.

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With Arbeloa drawn away by following the ball, Raul takes a touch and returns the ball to Jimenez who is now unmarked; he is in a wide area away from the CBs and Arbeloa has been pulled away by Raul Garcia. Speaking of Raul Garcia, the midfielder didn’t stop after playing the pass, and you can see him burst into the box in the space vacated when Arbeloa follows the ball once more.

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Jim saw this, and returned the ball to the onrushing Raul Garcia, playing it around Arbeloa towards the byline. Raul Garcia now has two defenders with him, Arbeloa and one of the CBs, and can’t get a clear sight of goal, but he cuts it back to Mario Suarez, who flooded forward in support much earlier, and is now on the edge of the box in bit of space.

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With Casillas drawn to his near post by Raul Garcia’s run, Mario Suarez has a lot of the goal to aim for. He rifles in a half volley as Casillas rushes across to adjust...

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It’s not a brilliant effort given how much of the goal he had to aim for, but Casillas does well to react to it and reach it, and a combination of the goalkeeper and the crossbar keeps the ball out. However, we have several players in the box ready to pounce.

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Pepe makes a huge mess of the clearance (okay, we were lucky here) and there’s the DF (S) Jimenez who taps in having remained in a similar wide position! 1-0 to Los Rojiblancos after just 7 minutes. Now we have a lead to protect...

A few minutes later and we were indeed on the defensive, as Gareth Bale snuck in between Miranda and Gamez to receive the ball from a narrow angle. His shot was pushed wide by Oblak though and we dealt with the corner well, which pleased me once more.

I noted on 12 minutes that Carvajal, up against Antoine Griezmann, was already on a booking and was ticked off for a foul on the flying French winger. I sensed blood (although it didn’t go so well in the last game when Real went down to 10 with us a goal ahead) and considered ticking Exploit Left Flank. However, we’re a constant threat on the right as well – it’s probably our stronger flank, with the CWB more of a threat than the WB on the left – so I didn’t want to restrict us, especially not to our weaker side. I decided to just keep an eye on it, and I felt Griez was the perfect guy to have there as his dribbling could cause the wing back a problem and make him dive into tackles in an attempt to recover.

It was about 15 minutes in when I decided to assess the match. Being 1-0 up was very satisfactory, and I thought we were doing fairly well in general. Ronaldo was having some joy with dribbles from out to in, though, and shot over after a mazy run went mostly unchallenged. Looking back on it and thinking, I could well have used an OI to close him down more. I usually avoid them like the plague as they’re useful in some specific situations but counter-productive in others. Here though closing him down could have worked because he’s not the kind of player to play many through balls so leaving space for him to exploit in behind probably wouldn’t hurt us much. Plus, I’ve noticed in real life that he tends to struggle a little in tight spaces so that could have limited him. Dribbling and long shots were his main threats to me, so that OI could have been a good idea.

However, I was pleased in general. I was wary of Ronaldo on the counter and leaving too much space for him, but I decided to remain in Standard mentality – it worked well against them in the first leg and it was doing well for the most part here too. I did add Be More Disciplined to help us protect our lead though, and with that I switched to Comprehensive highlights.

15 more minutes passes and they were quite uneventful, which I was delighted with. Their shots/on target ratio was 7/0 whereas ours was an efficient 3/3. I was very happy with this. I was, however, worried by the runs behind our defence by Bale and Ronaldo. I decided to act and changed my full backs from WB (S) and CWB (A) to both FB (S). I was satisfied that this would nullify the threat enough. Also I felt that we’d still be able to expose them on the flanks without our full backs overlapping, although they still did occasionally after that despite the more reserved role and duty.

Ten minutes before half-time and Antoine Griezmann got injured in a collision with Carvajal, although unfortunately not one that saw him receive a second booking. It was disappointing to lose a key player but on came a replacement that was kind of like-for-like in Cristian Rodriguez – sorry, I mean C-Rod. I was tempted to move Siqueira, who can play as a LM, forwards and make him a DW (S), because our full backs could have probably done with some help against Ronaldo/Bale. I decided not to because I didn’t want to make us less effective going forward.

The two Real dangermen went on to combine once more, with Ronaldo feeding Bale (oops – maybe he does play through balls...) who had a shot blocked by the goalkeeper. I wouldn’t class it as clean through as he had three or four defenders surrounding him and trying to block, but he had a clear sight of goal which was cause for concern. Here I felt I was too open and considered switching to Counter mentality, but I decided to stick with Standard and ride it out until half-time at least.

Three minutes before half-time and we got a big boost: as I had suspected, Carvajal didn’t last, picking up a second booking after C-Rod provoked him. We countered from the back patiently and methodically, working it forward on the right then sideways to the left, with our winger cutting inside to be tripped by Carvajal just outside the area in a central position. Real went down to ten men very close to half-time, and it was déjà vu.

I didn’t deal with it well enough last time by not acting, because I was unsure of what to do, so I was determined to show that I had learned my lesson now. They went strikerless once more, with their main threats still Ronaldo and Bale cutting inside, but perhaps even more emphasis on that. There would also be no Benzema for them to bounce passes off of. I knew they would still try to get back into it, though, because despite being a man down they were still a goal down. So I decided to try to grab control of the match before they did, going from Standard to Control. I also noted that they would have no out-ball at centre-forward, so if they wanted to play it long we would just keep coming if we could win it back, which should be fairly straight-forward. So I decided to Push Higher Up and Close Down More to pin them back when we had possession, although in hindsight perhaps Control already achieved that.

So, half-time and we’re a goal up and a man up. I’ve already become less reliant on the analysis toolbar because I know my tactic better and I’m getting better at spotting things in-game. So, they had started to dominate but I thought the red card and my changes would help.

The first action of the second half made me rethink some of my changes. My line was much higher and Bale managed to get sprung in behind after timing his run well, and before I let the move continue I made sure to take off Push Higher Up and Close Down More to avoid that happening when we were out of possession. I decided Control should suffice, which I could have done earlier when I made the changes. Ah well, I can learn from that and it didn’t cost me as nothing came of the initial danger.

I also decided to Play Narrower, because their wide players, presumably both set as IF (A), had to come inside and find space centrally, with no striker there. I wanted to deny them the opportunity to do so, and also the opportunity for their playmakers Kroos and Modric to thread the ball between our defenders for those IFs to run onto. Ronaldo hit the bar from the edge of the box in a good position just before those changes took effect, which made me grateful to have spotted the danger early enough because that was a definite warning sign.

Time passed nicely until the 66th minute, at which point Pepe picked up a yellow card. Knowing Pepe I thought we had an opportunity for a further man advantage, so I wanted to keep an eye on that, although I didn’t see how I could affect it. Having noted that Godin was also on a booking, I told him to Calm Down, and then when I realised Illarramendi, the DMC, was also on a booking, a plan formed. Illarramendi and Pepe were both protecting the centre of the pitch, so I could use one of my central players to provoke either of them into a foul. To do this, I decided I needed a dribbler, and changed my BBM (at this point Mario Suarez) to a CM (A), to make this role more direct and more focused on running at players. To counter-balance that change, I made Koke a DLP (S) instead of an AP (A), and since I didn’t need Gabi to dictate play with another DLP with him, I made him a CM (D) so he could focus purely on breaking up play and protecting the defence. Since Mario Suarez isn’t perfect for the CM (A) role, I decided after a few minutes that I would bring on Arda Turan and put him out wide in his usual role, with Raul Garcia, admittedly a bit tired, in the CM (A) provocateur role.

This seemed to work immediately, even before Raul Garcia took on the role, with Mario Suarez having our first chance in a long time as the CM (A). It being our first chance in a while didn’t bother me, because Real hadn’t created anything either and we felt in control. Here was the chance, and the role change was effective in making him more offensive, even though it wasn’t as a result of the direct dribbling I wanted (for a different reason to be fair).

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We then picked up another booking at 77 minutes, with Jesus Gamez entering the book for bringing Ronaldo down. The winger had isolated him on the left so he had to make the tackle, but it was a worrying sign. I asked him to Calm Down but I started to wonder about extra protection for him. As it was, I simply subbed on Ansaldi a couple of minutes later with my final change to ensure we kept all 11 on the pitch. I thought Godin, our other booked player, would be mature enough to stay disciplined and not get a second booking, plus he was less likely to get isolated one-on-one. It also occurred to me that Ansaldi, naturally a LB, is left-footed, and so would feel more natural defending on his left side. This suited us because Ronaldo, the winger on his side, would be cutting in, so Ansaldi would probably be more comfortable defending against him than Gamez had been.

On 78 minutes we had another half chance, which was created by Cristian Rodriguez who cut inside and shot from a dangerous position:

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It was then Jimenez’s turn to have a good shot from the edge of the box, and we had had the most recent three chances of the match since the switch to DLP (S) and CM (A) in the middle. Here was the chance:

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As you can see, Raul Garcia, now our CM (A), is the furthest forward and the player who supplied the pass. Having a direct dribbler as our most attacking midfielder was making us way more effective on the counter (which is why I chose that role for our counter-attacking tactic, so I should have thought of this tweak earlier) while Koke was controlling the game from deep nicely. An effective tweak which I was very happy with.

We then had a pretty big chance, as emphasised by how I wrote “CHANCE!” in my notes... it fell to the sub, Arda Turan. They cleared a cross but we pinned them back nicely, with Miranda receiving the ball on the halfway line unchallenged with no striker to battle with. We worked it back in well and Arda was found in space before seeing his shot blocked, leading to our first corner of the match. I was interested to see how it worked given that I’d only just set up our corner tactic. Nothing came of it but I’ll keep an eye on corners in future games too. (I thought I had a screenshot but I don’t, and I don’t want to go back and take one and ruin the result because I’ve built up the tension for anyone reading, but basically Arda was in space with their defence shifted across to the left, and we switched play quickly to find him, but they came across to cover and blocked)

With 87 minutes on the clock, we were keeping them in areas which didn’t concern us too much, but they managed to force a corner when we pushed them out wide by the corner flag. I wasn’t too concerned as we seem to be set up well from these situations, but the corner ended up bouncing around in our box which scared me horribly... luckily though we scrambled it clear and Jimenez held it up beautifully to relieve the pressure.

Another highlight on 89 minutes and we looked compact, and our defending was good as we forced James Rodriguez, who did nothing in any of the three games we’ve had so far, shot from 30 yards out. It was on target and Oblak ended up pushing it out wide, where Bale was lurking. Siqueira or Miranda got there first, though, and we cleared for a throw-in. We were defending resolutely and not conceding any quality opportunities but these were still nervous times. I mean, 1-0 up at the Bernabeu will always be nervous, especially when you’ve been ahead since the 7th minute and looking to nullify Ronaldo and Bale and co...

In the final few minutes we hadn’t managed to regain control of the ball, with Real coming back again to try to break us down. Luckily they didn’t manage to this time either, and Bale sent a harmless shot from long range well over the bar. Fine by me!

There was a final moment of genuine danger, though, in the final minute of the three added on. Marcelo got forward to overlap, which hadn’t actually happened much on either side with their full backs, and the ball was played over our defence, who were sitting just ahead of the 18-yard box, for him to get to at the by-line. He wasn’t tracked and pulled it back, but the cross was cleared. Illarramendi won the second ball though and gave it to James Rodriguez... whose very ambitious effort went well over too. I guess it wasn’t that dangerous in the end but I was worried when I saw Marcelo’s run, and he was in a great position. Maybe if Real still had Benzema up front he could have scored from the pull-back.

But the final whistle went, and we’d won 1-0 at the Bernabeu. The press decided that we had been lucky, and maybe Real did miss one or two good chances, but we missed a couple of opportunities to make it 2-0 as well, and we defended them well. Their shots/on target stood at 20/8 (lots of long shots – happy about that) and ours was 8/4. Possession was 52/48 in their favour, which may seem surprising as we had the man advantage, but they were chasing the game at home from the 7th minute.

Conclusions

I don’t really have any, to be honest, because we played the same game just a week or two ago so I’d already learned about how my tactic behaved in an away game at the Bernabeu. The main reflection I have is that I’m thrilled to have learned from my mistakes in the first leg earlier, particularly when they went down to ten men. I’m also glad that I made some effective tweaks, particularly the move to a more counter-attacking midfield. Hopefully some people have managed to make it this far because it’s almost two essays now (as I continue to neglect my three actual essay assignments from uni that need handing in within ten days...) and I’d love to hear some thoughts on any aspect of it. Even so, just writing it all down is incredibly helpful – I celebrated this win more than most I’ve ever had on FM because it really felt like I was having a big influence on not just the result but intricacies within the match. I’m definitely engaging more and improving quickly so I’m really pleased.

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Amazingly detailed analysis and reactions:thup: Looks like you are really understanding how to read the game.

The only point i would perhaps put forward, is whether you intend for this to be your long term approach? Its quite a lot of in-game tweaking to be doing, and for me, playing as Athletico, you would want to get a base system/setup which will serve you in perhaps 80% of games once you perfect it. From there you might make the odd tweak for the big 2 games, and perhaps slight in game tweaks if/when you cant break down defensive sides (although you likely have the individual players to unlock most defenses).

Not saying that is the only way to do it of course, but it helps you create a core identity and understand the type of player recruitment you require?

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Amazingly detailed analysis and reactions:thup: Looks like you are really understanding how to read the game.

The only point i would perhaps put forward, is whether you intend for this to be your long term approach? Its quite a lot of in-game tweaking to be doing, and for me, playing as Athletico, you would want to get a base system/setup which will serve you in perhaps 80% of games once you perfect it. From there you might make the odd tweak for the big 2 games, and perhaps slight in game tweaks if/when you cant break down defensive sides (although you likely have the individual players to unlock most defenses).

Not saying that is the only way to do it of course, but it helps you create a core identity and understand the type of player recruitment you require?

Cheers! I'm hoping that things will eventually become a lot simpler in how I play games, but for the time being I'm getting to know how the players function in the tactic and I'm also learning properly about FM tactics as well, even though I've read so many great posts before. I think a few things are becoming clear, and I'll probably end up with Control, Flexible and 4/5 TIs: Work Ball Into Box, Look For Overlap, Play Out Of Defence and then maybe one of/both Push Higher Up and Close Down More. Then I'll probably just approach big games with what my current standard tactic is, because it's served me well against Real so far.

I've played the first CL game against Leverkusen, although I had to have a bit of a break before even considering writing it up... that might come tomorrow, depending on my productivity levels.

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Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico Madrid - Champions League Group C Matchday 1: Match Analysis

This was the first match we had to play in the Champions League, with pressure on us after Diego Simeone had taken the team to the final the season before. We had a tough group of ourselves, Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli and Red Bull Salzburg.

Pre-match

I chose to do some in-depth analysis of my opposition this time for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we can't underestimate Bayer Leverkusen and think that we'll be able to beat them without at least thinking about their strengths, especially as we're playing away. Secondly, we actually have a few trends to spot in their team, since a few games have already been played. Plus it's an important game: we have to get off to a good start, especially in such a tough group, although inevitably all teams will take points off each other. Except maybe Salzburg. Sorry.

I began the analysis with the obvious starting-point: their formation, and their expected line-up. My knowledge of Leverkusen in real life informed this, as I have read a lot about Roger Schmidt's direct 4-4-2, and happily FM echoed this. My scouts told me to expect a 4-4-2 with Son Heung-Min and Karim Bellarabi flanking Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes, with Josip Drmic and Stefan Kiessling up front; certainly a formidable side. I focused less on their defence as I was mainly looking into how I could limit them when we're defending, as I trusted us sufficiently in attack to break down most sides.

Knowing the 4-4-2, Leverkusen in real life and the players they would probably play, I expected fast, direct play with an emphasis on the wingers, Son and Bellarabi, getting crosses into Drmic and Kiessling, and the stats backed me up: their most common assist type was a cross, with the right wing, Bellarabi's side, the most common side with 10 compared to 8 on the left (6 from their own half, 1 from midfield, 2 from the box). However, only 5 of their goals had been headers, with 18 of them placed shots. This combination of statistics told me without needing to watch any of their goals (although this may be an idea in future for a more perceptive analysis) that they mainly focused on cut-backs. This made sense because, although Kiessling is good in the air, Drmic is much more comfortable on the floor and isn't particularly tall (again, real football knowledge). As for their goals conceded, their left side was clearly weakest, with 5 goals conceded there, compared to 1, 1, 1 and 0 in the other four areas. Clearly their right-hand side is stronger offensively and defensively, which was good for us in attack as our right-hand side is also stronger so I thought we could have a lot of joy through Arda and Gamez.

In the end, my starting line-up was as follows: Oblak; Gamez, Godin, Miranda, Siqueira; Turan, Mario Suarez, Gabi, Koke, Griezmann; Raul Garcia. Jimenez was knackered after his exploits against Real - understandably so - and I left him out to recover, as I didn't think 89% was enough. Raul Garcia came in as our DF (S), a role which I hadn't actually used before this save but had worked really well so far. Griezmann and Koke were also tired, with 90% and 91% respectively, but I decided that, because they're two of our most crucial players, and because we had four days to recover before hosting Celta Vigo in La Liga, I would be okay to play them. I didn't make any personnel or role changes based on my pre-match analysis - the main function of that analysis was to prepare myself and be ready for what they would throw at us, so we wouldn't be surprised or caught out by anything.

The Match

As expected, they lined up in a flat 4-4-2 with Son and Bellarabi either side of Bender and Rolfes, with Kiessling and Drmic up top. The key battles I noted were Son vs Gamez, Bellarabi vs Siqueira, Kiessling vs Godin and Drmic vs Miranda (the STs might have been the other way around, I wrote Godin for both in my notes). We would match them 1 vs 1 out wide and in the centre of their attack, while we had the numerical advantage in the centre of midfield, 2 vs 3 in our favour, so I felt we would be able to control the game through that battle. Since Son and Bellarabi were focused on dribbling, crossing and shooting, I made the decision to add the OIs "close down more" to them both as I didn't want them to have space to shoot or cross.

After a minute I noted their high tempo, on and off the ball, with intense pressing clearly a part of their game. I wondered if I needed to counter-act that, as I thought we might struggle to evade their pressing and lose the ball often, but I felt that our DF should help us by providing an out-ball if we needed it. Plus I noted that our 3vs2 in midfield should give us options in the middle.

Four minutes in and we had the first chance, working it well. Griezmann played it inside to Raul Garcia, nominally our centre forward, who had dropped deep, and he found the run of the BBM Mario Suarez, who had burst ahead of him. Mario's shot from a great position (see below in the first of my 32 screenshots - oops way too many and I'm gonna have to split this into two posts) was tipped wide by Bernd Leno:

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After we didn't use our corner well, they had a goal kick and I took this time to note their shape. The wingers were high up, as I would expect, while Rolfes was sat deeper than Bender. Possibly the former was a CM (D) or DLP (D) and the latter a BBM (S). I decided that, given our numerical superiority centrally and their strength out wide, I wanted to force them to build play centrally. They lacked creativity in their midfield partnership so I thought that could work. I decided to man mark their wingers with my full backs to make sure they weren't available for the pass, and reminded myself to remember to change if they swapped positions/were substituted.

Here is an example, 7 minutes in, of us using our numerical superiority in the centre - assisted also by Raul Garcia dropping deep. We have them out-numbered and are able to by-pass their midfield quite easily:

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A couple minutes later we were continuing to out-number them, this time off the ball, as Stefan Kiessling turned towards goal and tried to dribble. We surrounded him, and cut off a few possible angles, which I was happy about - here you see Gamez marking Bellarabi, who had switched sides, and Raul Garcia dropping in to mark Leverkusen's deepest CM:

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The first moment of genuine danger followed for Leverkusen, and all of a sudden we were 1-0 down, having dominated the game and not given them a sniff. It was the movement of Drmic which troubled us, as he got past Miranda and found Kiessling to score. This was perhaps a result of us forcing them into central areas, with Drmic key to unlocking us with his movement on and off the ball. Here you see the move as it has become dangerous - I should probably analyse how exactly it became dangerous too.

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Drmic has beaten Miranda and Kiessling has begun to pull away, giving Godin a decision to make: does he close down Drmic or follow Kiessling?

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Mario Suarez comes across to close down the pass, protecting the defence nicely, leaving Godin to follow his man Kiessling... er... maybe not...

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Godin realises his massive error, comes back across to try and block the shot, but he's too late and Kiessling smashes it past Oblak.

I had two thoughts in response to the goal, specifically how we had been dragged out of position. Firstly, perhaps this was because of our OIs on the wingers and so I think that at this point I removed the OIs and man marking. Secondly in a more general sense I decided to add Be More Disciplined as we were away in a tough game and didn't want to lose our shape as we had done for the goal.

Immediately we threatened from kick-off, with Griezmann receiving the ball in a dangerous area (see below) before his clever pull-back missed the several players who were bursting into the box (happy about their movement), with Koke inches away from connecting:

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Despite being 1-0 down, having assessed our performance at the 15 minute mark I was happy enough with our performance to switch from Full Match to Comprehensive. We had controlled the majority of the game, with Leverkusen's clinical forward play punishing us, and I was satisfied that this wouldn't happen again after my changes. One thing I did alter was our corners: I had forgotten to make Koke my main taker, as detailed in a previous post, and Gabi was taking them. He was meant to be lurking outside the box, and when I spotted that he was taking them, I decided to see how it went, and after 2 failed corners I acted and made Koke my main taker.

Immediately I saw results, which really surprised me, as we got back into the game through a corner, with Koke and Gabi influential in it. Here are the screenshots of the move unfolding as Arda Turan made it 1-1:

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Although I set Corner Aim to Penalty Spot, with Gabi taking up his position on the edge of the area, Koke pulled it back for him.

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Gabi gave it to Mario Suarez, the BBM who had been ready to Attack Ball From Deep (as you can see we still have a similar midfield structure during corners to open play, as I detailed in a previous post - happy about that).

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Mario Suarez instantly played it across to Koke who was onside and in space to cross, which he does.

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It's a perfect ball which Arda Turan meets first time on the volley...

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It's parried by Leno, but Arda smashes in the rebound. 1-1.

Having levelled up the match, I was pleased, because we certainly didn't deserve to be behind, although the game was still a little end-to-end. This resulted in a potential opening for us, as we broke after shutting down a Leverkusen attack. Raul Garcia found Mario Suarez, who could have passed it to Arda Turan in space (although he didn't) and this would have seen Arda with time to cross for the onrushing Mario and Raul:

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Then there was another example of our 3vs2 advantage in midfield paying off. Here you see our triangle of CMs passing around Leverkusen's pivot of Bender and Rolfes, before Mario switches it wide to Gamez the RB, who has overlapped after Arda, the RM, has moved inside to make space for his team-mate. Gamez had a good opportunity to get a good ball in, with a few players lurking in the box, most notably DF Raul Garcia and LW Griezmann (both good in the air) and we won a corner in the end.

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Just before the half-hour mark, I saw Arda take a long shot with us on the edge of the area. He had a few better options around him and I wanted us to use those options, so I added Work Ball Into Box to make us more patient in those situations. We needed to make good use of possession when we had it so I wanted to cut out those long shots.

Then just before half-time Lars Bender was booked, and I wondered if I could provoke him into another. He was playing on the right side of Leverkusen's central midfield partnership, facing up against Koke, so I couldn't change my BBM to a CM-A to exploit this as Rolfes would be the one to deal with it. I didn't want to swap the CMs as this would damage the carefully-constructed balance of my midfield, so I left things as they were, although I noted that Bender was still tackling aggressively despite his booking. Our LW, Griezmann, had often cut inside from wide to run at players, so we might be able to expose Bender that way anyway.

Okay so half-time and it's 1-1 - the second half and conclusions will be covered in the next post, as I've used way too many images for one post.

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Into the second half we went with the score 1-1, and I felt we were definitely the dominant side, and if anyone was going to score it should be us. Two minutes into the half and we confirmed this with another good chance; Raul Garcia's shot from a great position pushed wide by Leno (Griezmann could have been played in - perhaps a more creative forward role would have encouraged that):

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Two minutes later and we did go 2-1 up, with Raul Garcia clinical this time. We worked the ball into the box really well (perhaps my TI of Work Ball Into Box helped this) with Koke finding his striker in a bit of space in the area, and Raul Garcia smashed it into the top corner. As well as my player roles working well, it was a fantastic finish helped by the quality of my striker. Here you see the move unfolding as we built play in a wide area from a throw-in (a theme of our play in all games so far) with our CMs allowed time on the ball in front of their defence:

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Naturally, Leverkusen had to respond, and they started threatening more. First, Kiessling had a good chance, with his shot saved before we blocked a dangerous rebound - Drmic's movement was unsettling us - before I noted that they were probing more and more. I pondered changing our mentality to Counter, but I didn't fancy defending crosses against Leverkusen and I worried about Drmic opening us up if we sat back too much, so I decided to keep going with Standard.

Then more danger, and this time I responded. As shown in the screenshot below, Bellarabi, the RM, got in behind our WB (S) Siqueira, and the LB had to make a fantastic recovery challenge, sliding in from behind and winning the ball cleanly. It could have been much worse for us so I immediately changed both of our full backs to FB (S). Here's the dangerous piece of play before Siqueira recovered:

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Just as I had changed my full backs, Leverkusen changed too, moving their wide players up to the AM strata to go 4-2-4 wide or whatever you like to call it. This was a clear sign of aggression and attacking intent and I was glad to have already made my full backs more defensive, although I might need to do more. A few minutes later on 71 minutes I decided to act further: we couldn't get out, so I decided to change my midfield roles to the counter-attacking roles: BBM (S) and AP (A) became CM (A) and DLP (S) respectively, with DLP (D) changing to CM (D) also. The thinking behind this was detailed earlier in my analysis of the Real Madrid La Liga match. Then on 77 minutes I decided to be more extreme, switching from Standard to Counter as we simply couldn't get out so I wanted to make us more solid defensively and more focused on counter-attacking quickly rather than building play slowly. I also removed Work Ball Into Box to complement that. Griezmann was knackered with 66%, so I brought on C-Rod for fresh legs. A few minutes later with 81 minutes on the clock, I made a similar change, bringing on Tiago (who had just returned from a leave of absence because of homesickness...) in the DLP role for a tired Koke. I felt Tiago would bring calm and experience to our midfield as we looked to defend our lead.

The clock ticked to 90 and we hadn't had any chances to deal with for about 15 minutes since I had made the changes detailed above, which I was pleased with. I made my final sub, bringing on Saul for a tired and yellow-carded (couldn't risk a red) Gabi. I didn't want our deepest midfielder to be the young and inexperienced Saul, so I moved Mario Suarez to the CM (D) role and made Saul my counter-attacking CM (A) - his fresh legs would help us here, even if he wasn't perfectly suited to the role in his attributes.

Three minutes were added on, and in the second of those three, drama. BIG DRAMA. We were on the attack, which was pleasing because we weren't being pinned back onto the back foot, and we had a big chance to score as we had several players in great positions if we could find any of them. Our man on the ball (can't remember whom because of the DRAMA) made a poor decision, however, and suddenly we were in danger. We had committed men forwards (this annoyed me - I wanted our counters to be more sensible) and now Leverkusen had a chance. They hit us on the counter instantly and we were exposed, and Stefan Kiessling smashed in to make it 2-2. Just as I was about to have a mini-tantrum, up popped the best notification of all time. The offside flag. Relief!

They had time to get one last dangerous free-kick though, with Miranda bringing down Drmic in the middle of our half. I was fine with that, seeing it as a tactical foul, and luckily we dealt with the delivery from the free-kick. Here's how that unfolded:

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We head it away to the player on the right of the screen, who sees no option but to turn around and give it to his goalkeeper on the half-way line. 90+3 minutes were to be played and we're clearly past that. Blow up, ref!

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Leno launches it long - we should be able to deal with it if play continues. Great time to blow up though, ref.

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Uh oh. Ref STILL hasn't blown for FT and Miranda has missed the header. Calhanoglu is about to receive it, with Godin coming across to possibly block the midfielder...

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He's not going to get there...

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NOOOOOOOO

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DON'T DO IT

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Fiddlesticks.

Conclusions

As you can probably tell, it ended 2-2. I was gutted to concede the late equaliser - especially after going from despair to joy when their previous one was chalked off a minute before that - but I didn't think 2-2 was a bad result, despite the fact that we had dominated for long periods. Perhaps we needed to create more clear cut chances though, although I did think we'd gotten into some really great positions (as seen above). I thought at the end that I'd made a mistake by moving to Counter, and could have chosen Control instead. At the time I didn't want to because I was afraid of Leverkusen on the counter and wanted to give them respect. If it had been a smaller side, I would have been more comfortable and gone to Control, looking to get the third goal, but here my priority was to defend given my respect for my opponents. Looking back, that actually worked for the most part, until fate and a faulty whistle handed Leverkusen a late equaliser from a long ball. So I think I handled the match reasonably well; the main thing I'd do differently next time would be not to add the OIs and man marking on their wingers. Good ideas in theory but they made us lose our shape, which is why I usually avoid them. Not sure I'll use either one again, as this was an experiment which probably failed.

Next up is Celta Vigo at home, a similar game to Eibar. I've learnt a few things about those kind of games so I'll be changing my approach. Details of that and how we perform will come as and when I play that game. Hopefully my posts won't continue to be this long because we'll iron out any issues we have, although I'll still probably highlight things we do well. Hope some people managed to make it all the way through once more, any thoughts on any of the games so far would be greatly appreciated.

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A New 'Plan B': Tactic Analysis

I've played the Celta Vigo home match, but after doing so I decided to make a new secondary tactic (not because of the match - reasons will be explained below) and having done so I want to write about it before I do the Celta Vigo match, partly just to break up the 'monotony' of match analyses and also because a few things are fresh in my mind about the tactic. Before showing it in its V1 form (V2 will be when I add stuff based on what I see) I want to go through my thought process, both initially when I made the decision to make one and then as I set up the roles and duties.

I'd initially created one main tactic and then two others to use in specific situations (against smaller teams to break them down and against bigger teams to frustrate them and counter) but so far I hadn't felt the slightest need to use either one, even though we'd been in both situations. My standard tactic had mostly sufficed, with just a couple of tweaks needed here and there, some which were situational in response to my opponents and some in response to some things that I will probably change permanently to improve the tactic. I hadn't really needed to use the others because I could just add tweaks instead of wholesale changes, although that's not to say creating them didn't help. They allowed me to think about what I would need to change about my main tactic in different situations, which gave me an idea of how to adapt when my standard tactic needed tweaking. For example, the midfield in my counter-attacking 4-1-4-1 was a great subtle tweak to use when I wanted to focus a little more on counter-attacking.

Those other two tactics were pretty similar to my standard tactic in terms of shape, though, so I wanted to create something completely different, partly because it would just be more interesting, and also because it would offer a lot more variation. Shape, roles and duties were how I formed the first tactic, with very few TIs, and I thought I could create something different using the same combination and neglecting TIs, team mentality and team shape, at least for the time being.

Two ways in which I could vary from my standard shape were obvious: using a back three and using a strike partnership. For maximum variation, I decided to do both (having initially toyed with the idea of a 3-4-2-1, roughly Liverpool's recent shape, although that was maybe more of an attacking 5-4-1 in my opinion, from what I'd seen and read anyway) and I went with a 3-4-1-2 as my shape. Next up, deciding the roles.

I began to write out a basic idea, role by role, but I realised as I got past my defence (the one thing I was already sure about - three CD (D)s for simplicity, although this could change) that I had to set up my roles in a way that would see them combine and make sense as a unit, rather than simply setting them up individually, so I thought about what I would need to give me a balanced set-up.

I wanted to have a double pivot in my midfield, with the two sitting in front of the defence (which would give me nice angles on the ball and off the ball, with the two CMs covering the gaps in between my three CBs - this would create more triangles rather than direct vertical and horizonal lines, as between two CBs and two CMs in a 4-4-2, and I liked the idea of this). I wanted one to be more defensively-minded and the other to be given licence to get forward, with one sitter and either a passer or a runner. I then brought the AMC into my thinking, because if my more attack-minded CM was a passer, I would want the AMC to be a runner, and vice versa, to achieve balance in what was still going to resemble a midfield three. This was where I started to think about my players, and who would play where. I could either have Raul Garcia alongside Gabi, my sitter, with Koke advanced, or the other way around, with Koke deep and Raul Garcia playing off the strikers. I decided that the latter combination would suit each individual better, and planned the roles with Koke as my deep CM alongside Gabi and Raul Garcia as the AMC. With this in mind, the deeper role would be a passer and the AMC role a runner, as I felt those suited the individuals I would be playing there.

Because I would have Koke deep as a playmaker, I chose the CM (D) role for Gabi because I didn't want to have two playmakers in front of my defence - I wanted Gabi to be fully focused on defending, and Koke's role could focus more on dictating play alongside him and bringing the play forward. I made a mental note to watch if my CM (D) roamed too much from his position - I wanted him to sit and just keep things simple, and had read that the CM (D) can venture out of position at times to win the ball back, a bit like the BWM (D) but perhaps not as extreme. At this point I'd like to note that I'm discovering my identity as a manager more, and part of it is definitely that I want my players to have very specific roles and not share different responsibilities all that much. Universitality is cool but I like to set up specific roles for my players which will dictate how the system behaves, which lends itself to a set-up with few TIs, I think. I guess that lends my style more to the Structured side of Team Shape, although I'm not going to select it because it's still unclear to me how that part of the TC works. Leaving it at Flexible now, which is what I'd like us to be anyway: flexible, which is the same aim of my primary tactic. I previously thought it best to have different aims for different tactics, which is why I created a counter tactic and a break-teams-down tactic, but, as I said above, I never used them. My primary and secondary tactics have similar aims but work in different ways offensively and defensively, and I think I'll need to have an idea of when I'll use each tactic. Otherwise I'll probably end up only using the primary one. I'll try to discuss that in more detail a bit later.

I still had to decide the roles for my central midfielders (by the way, my reason for beginning with these roles is because I think games are won and lost in central midfield and they're therefore probably the most important roles to decide). Since my AM would be a runner, not as much a creative player, I decided to make Koke's role the RPM (S), which I wanted to try out. The DLP (S) wouldn't get forward enough, and I think the AP role works best as the most advanced player of a midfield trio, which Koke would not be. He'd still be the creative heartbeat of the team though, so I felt RPM (S) would work well. I would probably have used the AP (S) for this role in previous versions, but it was nice to have a role which was more specialised and fitted exactly what I was looking for.

Having decided I wanted my AM to be a direct runner, I narrowed it down to an AM and a SS (A). I wasn't sure if I wanted a supporting or attacking duty if I went for AM, so I chose to wait until other duties were decided so I could base it on giving the team balance (if I already decided on a lot of support duties I would make it an attack duty, and vice versa). Having thought about it a little more, though, I realised that, because I wanted a direct runner, I should probably make it an AM (A) - I'd decided against using the SS (A) although I may well try it out later on. Having a midfield three of CM (D), RPM (S) and AM (A) gives me one defend, one support and one attack duty, and I like that balance and variation.

I then thought about the wide midfield roles, and, for the sake of balance once more, I decided to have one more defensive role and one more attacking role (although not necessarily with the duties reflecting that). I had two types of player who could play in these positions: Griezmann and Arda, the attacking players, and Siqueira and Juanfran (both competent in the wide midfielder position), the defensive players. The defensive role choice was fairly straight-forward: a DW (S), which I'd used on both flanks in a previous 3-4-1-2 with Real Sociedad last year, to decent success. I still wanted forward runs but it's clearly the more defensive of the roles. I could always switch to W (S) in a game I'm dominating more in a bid to get more men forward. On the other side I wanted an attack duty to make us more assymetrical - note, that doesn't mean ruining the balance, but rather counter-balancing the more defensive player on the other side - so it was between W (A) and WM (A) for me. I could have picked WPM (A) but I knew I didn't want this player to be my main creative influence; that was Koke's role. I decided that the DW (S) would be a runner, with Juanfran/Siqueira more focused at getting up and down the flank than passing, so the other role would be a passer: the WM (A). I'd already had success with Arda in this role, and I felt Griezmann could do well there too, albeit a more direct option. This could offer me some nice variety, as I planned to use either Arda or Griezmann there, depending on a few things.

With my defence and midfield sorted, it was time to sort out the strike partnership. Like most strike partnerships, I wanted one to stretch play and run in behind, and I wanted the other to drop deep, which would create space for my AM (A) and give us a contrast to the AM (A), running away from the box rather than into it, and this player would help in the build-up for roles, with others more focused on getting into the box. We had the AM (A) and the other striker focused on getting into the box, with the WM (A) possibly doing a bit of both, so we needed somebody to be dropping deeper to help the RPM (S) out. I ruled out Trequartista as I didn't want an attack duty, which left me with the following options: DLF (S), F9 (S), CF (S), TM (S), DF (S). I wanted somebody with licence to be creative, which ruled out the TM and DF, while I wanted the role to be more specialised than the CF, which was kind of a master-of-everything role. I could have chosen the F9, just as I could have chosen the SS earlier, and these roles together could be lethal, but I went for the DLF, which was kind of an instinct move. The best way I can explain it is that I want an emphasis of movement off the ball and creativity off it, and I felt the F9 was too focused on the former. Plus I haven't used the DLF (S) much, so this should be a good way of becoming familiar with that particular role.

For his strike partner, I was between the AF (A), P (A) and CF (A) for somebody to stretch the play. I ruled out the CF (A) for the reason detailed above, which left me with two rather similar options. I think my decision was then based on who I would use the role, which would primarily be Mario Mandzukic. He's a very all-round player, so pigeon-holing him as a poacher would deprive me of his hold-up ability and link-up play, so I chose the AF (A), giving me the default partnership of AF (A) and DLF (S) - it must be default for a reason, surely!

So, here's what I ended up with:

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A few things to note. This version has Siqueira and Arda in the wide roles, just because when I was setting up the tactic it was quickest to have those roles on those sides in correspondence to the rest of the team's roles (I'll explain that in a minute). If I choose to select Griezmann and Juanfran, all of the roles will swap around (I could also select Juanfran and Siqueira as two DWs in a game where I want to be more defensive, or Griezmann and Arda as two WMs - or possibly a W and a WM to suit their attributes and styles, and give more variation - in a game where I want to be more attacking).

In this version, I have the RPM (S) next to the DW (S) and the CM (D) next to the WM (A). This allows me to balance attacking roles with defensive roles, as well as having a passer (RPM and WM) on both sides, and a passer next to a runner (RPM next to DW). These roles will always stay next to each other for the sake of balance.

On top of that, I had to decide upon sides for my striking roles, and initially thought of having my AF (A) on the side of my WM (A), because I thought the WM (A) would be more advanced than the DW (S) and therefore more likely to get crosses in. Now that I think about it, that may not be the case, and the DW (S) will probably still get a lot of crosses in, with the WM (A) coming narrower (this may cause a problem because he'll have no CWB (A) to overlap him, like in the primary 4-5-1 tactic). In the end, I decided to have the AF (A) in front of the RPM (S) in a further bid to get balance - I didn't want the DLF (S) dropping deep and stepping on the toes of the RPM (S), so they're on opposite sides which will always be the case, no matter who is playing out wide.

Finally, here's an idea of the shape I'd like us to be in when we are in our attacking phase (defensive phase is the formation you see, which will probably see us a bit more open than the main tactic, as we have an AMC and two STC as opposed to just one STC in the 4-5-1, although that player gets back anyway - probably because he's on a support duty... sorry for the long parentheses, just thinking aloud):

GK

CD - CD - CD

CM -

---------- DW

WM -- RPM -----

DLF ----

---- AM - AF

This is just a very loose interpretation, and the WM will get further forward than that, and a CD may well join the attack, and the DW might be more attacking too... but it's just a rough idea. It's not completely rigid either: I'd like the RPM to move backwards and forwards, depending on what phase of play we're in, and I expect the DLF to move back and the WM to move forwards as our moves develop. A few explanations: the AM has swapped roughly with the DLF, which I'd like to encourage as it will help drag teams out of position (this would probably be more achievable with a SS (A) - will keep that in mind) and lets the DLF be creative from in front of the defence and allows the AM to cause havoc with direct runs off the ball. The AF is shown out wide as I want him to stretch play (not sure if this will actually happen, not without a PI anyway, if I can even programme that behaviour). The CM and RPM are more or less central as I want the CM to move across and protect the entire defence, not sit on the right, and I'd like the RPM to be central so that he can really be the heartbeat of the team - plus that brings him closer to the WM who will make more runs than the DW who is nominally next to the RPM.

Also I wanted to discuss when I would actually use this tactic. For the time being I'm still not sure. It might well depend on available personnel, as this uses quite a few different positions to my other shape, although admittedly similar personnel anyway. I still want to use it to control games, because that is my aim and the tactic reflects the overall philosophy I'm aiming for (which is becoming clearer the more I think about FM in this kind of analytical way), but I think the roles are set up in a different way which will give me variety, so I may switch to it if I'm struggling to break teams down. It will probably be used in a response to the opposition, now that I think about it, as my 4-5-1 is pretty traditional shape-wise and might see my players marked easily by defensive sides. This is a little more unorthodox and could allow me to have players in space when I play against compact teams who sit deep. I'm not 100% sure yet though and I'll probably just experiment with it when I'm feeling brave. I do wonder, however, if this is a more attacking shape than my 4-5-1, because I have three players in attacking positions compared to the one in my primary tactic. The 4-5-1 is pretty flexible so it can be an attacking shape as well as a defensive one, but I think the 3-4-1-2 lends itself less to being a defensive shape, so I probably won't use it against better teams.

--

A quick edit: I like to have an idea of the back-ups for each role, because my roles should be based on my squad as well as making a sensible tactic so here's a quick run-down:

GK: Miquel Angel Moya

DCR: See below

DC: I only actually have three natural CBs, which makes it even more urgent to buy one, as Saul and Gamez were previously my only cover there and I like to have two natural players for each position, although having six CBs would definitely be overkill, particularly as I won't even use this shape all the time. The afore-mentioned Saul and Jesus Gamez will fill these back-up positions for now as they aren't needed elsewhere in this formation at the moment. I could also use the on-loan Cristian Ansaldi who may not be a natural in the role but as a full back has similar attributes to those needed at CB. This would give me a back-up back three of Ansaldi-Saul-Gamez, with the natural full backs on their natural sides and Saul the natural MC in the middle. A bit like a back-three Guardiola might deploy of Alaba-Alonso-Rafinha and I'm really interested in his ideas, as you might be able to tell

DCL: See above

MR: Arda Turan/Juanfran - personnel available will dictate the role if it's an issue

MCR: Tiago will be back-up to Koke in the RPM, although I may gradually ease Saul in as this will give him more playing time, and Tiago is declining while Saul has great potential and is also suited to the role

MCL: Mario Suarez

ML: Antoine Griezmann/Guilherme Siqueira - the same applies as with RM, but I also have Cristian Rodriguez who could probably play either role, depending on who I have at RM

AMC: This is where I have to get a bit creative, as I was planning on using Correa, a natural AMC but more of a playmaker than a runner, as the back-up for DLF. If Raul Garcia is injured I will probably use Arda Turan here as he is familiar with the position and is best suited to the role out of the rest of my squad

STCR: As detailed above, Angel Correa will back-up Alessio Cerci - neither are naturally STCs but are good options as my deep-lying striker

STCL: Raul Jimenez will be back-up for Mario Mandzukic, and I will consider making him a P (A) in these situations as he's not as all-round as Mario I don't think. I'll have to look at his attributes again to decide

--

For now, that's all I have to say about my new secondary tactic (I actually like this name a lot more than 'Plan B') and I hope to put it to the test soon - I felt it would be a waste only training one tactic and I simply wasn't going to use the others because they were achievable with tweaks. Next update from me will be a write-up of Celta Vigo in La Liga. Hope people managed to make their way through this because I'd love to hear some thoughts.

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Atletico Madrid vs Celta Vigo - La Liga Matchday 4: Match Analysis

So after the 2-2 draw with Leverkusen we hosted Celta Vigo in the league. After three games, we were the only side with a 100% record. Real Madrid and Barcelona had already stuttered, and I sensed an opportunity already to open up a gap; we'd already beaten Real Madrid away in what was probably the toughest game we'd face all season on just the third matchday. By the way, I think this post will be a little shorter - I only have 12 or 13 screenshots comprising two different moves!

Pre-match

I decided against doing any match analysis because I felt I should win this game if we performed well enough to give ourselves the chance. We'd played what I considered to be a similar game on Matchday 2 at home to Eibar, which we eventually won after needing a few tweaks to my initial tactic. These were changes I wanted to continue with as I felt they corrected some flaws in the original tactic in these games at home against lower sides, so I added some of the shouts we finished the Eibar match with: Work Ball Into Box and Look For Overlap to go with Play Out Of Defence. I didn't add Push Higher Up or Close Down More because I wanted to see how we did on Control before cranking up the pressure more if we were being too passive and reactive - I want us to be the opposite: proactive.

I had a quick look at Celta in the match preview when I noticed that they were still unbeaten and up in fourth at this early stage of the season. They've won twice and drawn once, so maybe I could do with not under-estimating them. I was expecting a 4-1-4-1, which I felt could be great at limiting us going forwards and also threatening on the counter-attack, so I was wary. I checked who their results were against, with their wins both 1-0, away at Cordoba and at home to Getafe, while they drew 3-3 at home to Real Sociedad. These results were more or less expected for them in my opinion which tempered their impressive league position somewhat and meant it would probably return to their expected position as they faced better sides (like us!).

So then I thought about our starting eleven. After our CL exploits in the emotional draw in Germany we had some tired legs, although most players had recovered to 92% or higher, which I thought was okay. My DCs were on 91% though, so I chose to rotate Miranda out, bringing in Jose Maria Gimenez, with the youngster needing game-time to reach his good potential anyway. I chose not to rotate more than that because firstly I didn't want to under-estimate Celta as I said earlier, and we also had a few days before our next match, on Thursday away to Almeria in Matchday 5. So, our line-up:

Oblak; Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Siqueira; Arda, Suarez, Gabi, Koke, Griezmann; Raul Garcia. I had Raul Garcia as a CF (S) instead of the DF (S) we've used lately because I didn't think we needed an out-ball, or indeed such a defensive option in general since I expected to dominate the game. Raul Garcia is a good all-round forward too so should suit the role of Complete Forward.

The Match

The first chance fell to us after 5 minutes, with our corner routine working well. Koke pulled it back to Gabi on the edge of the area, and our DLP (D) was completely unmarked, giving him time to pick his pass to Mario Suarez, the BBM who had been ready to attack the ball from deep as per his instructions. He had his back to goal, and turned to shoot through a crowded box. His shot was parried by the goalkeeper and cleared by their defence.

A minute later and Celta were dominating possession; 61% to be exact. I had let this slide for the first minute or two because possession stats can soon even out after a few minutes but this hadn't happened and we weren't getting the ball enough. I was happy with the positioning of the defensive line, so I didn't add Push Higher Up, but I decided to act and added the TI Close Down More.

We then had a little opportunity, working the ball directly forward through the different levels of our team with some really nice incisive one-touch football. Here's the move unfolding:

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Juanfran moves it inside to Koke, in space

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Arda has come inside into space too, and Koke moves it on to him instantly

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With Raul Garcia dropping off the CBs into space, Arda finds him immediately

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Raul Garcia shoots on his left after chesting it down (I think)

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The ball flies just past the post - was hard to show this but you can just about see the ball and its shadow by the post.

Raul Garcia probably chose the wrong side with his shot and could have gone for the left corner, but it was on his weaker foot so I can forgive that. I was really happy with how we worked it forward purposefully and how our players had all found space the way I wanted to in their individual roles, as well as how they linked up and interacted as a team.

Another opportunity followed a minute later on 8 minutes, with Koke finding space on the left in an advanced wide position before pulling the ball back, with Raul Garcia, again dropping off the CBs, just failing to connect with the pull-back. At this point we had improved from 39% possession to 45% over the course of two minutes since I'd added Close Down More, and were having opportunities to boot. I was happy with this.

At 10 minutes I noted that we were being aggressive in the duels to win the second balls, meaning we were getting on the ball more and pinning them back when they cleared it. This saw us now with 58% possession which was a quick turn-around from when Celta had 61% possession on 6 minutes. Possession stats change quickly in the early stages but clearly we were taking control, both of the ball and the match - our possession wasn't aimless, as you can see from the opportunities we'd already created.

At just shy of 15 minutes I decided that, since we were probing well and looking threatening, we could switch to Comprehensive highlights and would soon make the breakthrough. Unfortunately this didn't happen and we ended up going in 0-0 at HT having made no Clear Cut Chances, which worried me. The stats were us with 7 shots, 2 on target (and we'd had 1 long shot) and Celta with 2 shots, both long shots and neither of them on target. We'd had 4 Half Chances, they'd created none. They clearly hadn't threatened us one bit, but we were finding it hard to break them down as well, with their DMC protecting them centrally and the MR and ML helping out in wide areas too. I considered making a change but having checked the Analysis tab to see we'd been doing alright at most things, provoking mistakes from their DCs and DL in deep areas and making interceptions high up the pitch, I decided to be patient and just give the team a warning by way of a stern team-talk.

After 48 minutes, we had a chance through Antoine Griezmann and I was encouraged that we were showing a little more urgency going forwards. Guilherme Siqueira got forward on the left, overlapping his winger who had drifted centrally into the box to accommodate that run, and he whipped in a cross from a dangerous area. It reached Griez at the near post, and he controlled and shot from a tight angle but a good position. The goalkeeper pushed it wide for a corner but I was satisfied that we'd started to threaten a little more. At this point I decided to make Siqueira a CWB (A) to match Juanfran on the other side (usually we're stronger on Juanfran's side) instead of a WB (S), just to encourage those overlaps more.

I then thought I could add a couple of TIs to create more of these incidents with my wide midfielders in the box to attack crosses and my full backs overlapping. I wondered if I could add Play Narrower, to encourage my wide players moving into central areas and to make space for my full backs in wide areas, and Exploit The Flanks to encourage us to focus our play out wide, although we did already have Look For Overlap. I decided to leave things as they were though because this was more of an experimental idea which I wanted to think more about later.

On 54 minutes, a corner to us, and I had to think about how we were attacking them. Once more Koke cut it back to Gabi on the edge of the area instead of aiming for the penalty spot as he was being instructed. I was fine with him doing something different now and then for variation but he was doing it almost every time, so clearly the penalty spot aim was flawed. I decided to switch to Near Post, so that my guys at the near post, Miranda (Gimenez today) and Griezmann, could attack it before it potentially ending up at the back post (either because everybody missed it or somebody got a flick on) for Godin and Arda. Back to the actual corner we had, though, with Koke finding Gabi it worked pretty well in the end, as he wasn't marked once more and found Raul Garcia on the turn. His shot was parried, and fell to Arda Turan, who skied the rebound. The goalkeeper was out of position and it was fairly close to the goal, so the game counted it as our first CCC of the game.

On the hour mark I decided to make a change, both tactically and in terms of personnel, although it was only one change really. Raul Garcia wasn't having the best of games, having some half-chances here and there but not threatening enough, so I decided to twist at this point and bring on Alessio Cerci, the real-life Atleti flop who was just returning from injury in my game, with 92% which was more than good enough. I wanted him to give us another creative outlet while also adding direct running when he got the ball, hopefully causing chaos at the back, so I made him a trequartista. This change was made on 60 minutes. I actually took Mario Suarez off and made Raul Garcia my BBM to make us more attacking.

13 minutes later on 73 minutes, as I was getting a bit desperate, the next highlight of note happened. Here are the screenshots of the move unfolding as a chance fell to us (or rather we created a chance - it wasn't luck!):

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We are fierce in winning the ball back: they've cleared our initial cross but Gabi presses and wins the ball back, pinning them back and forcing them on the defensive.

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Gabi heads it first time to Koke, our main creator who is in space, with Celta sat very deep giving us space in front of their defence and out wide.

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Koke dribbles a little, drawing out two of their CMs, and threads a pass between them into Cerci, my Trequartista who came on just 10 minutes ago.

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Cerci receives with his back to goal.

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He looks to turn...

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Three defenders are around him, but he's darted a bit away from them and has time and space for the shot...

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And it's in! Cerci is clinical and hits a powerful shot over the stranded goalkeeper into the top corner. 1-0 to Atletico, and I felt I really influenced this goal with my substitution, TIs and other player roles (Gabi and Koke performed theirs well).

At 81 minutes, I decided to note how our possession stats had changed since the goal, to find out if Celta were coming back into it as they looked for an equaliser, and indeed they had: we'd gone from 54% to 51%, which worried me. At this point I used my final two subs: on came Tiago for Koke, my AP (A), because I wanted fresh legs (Koke had 63%) and a calm head in Tiago, who I also changed to a DLP (S) to give us more of an influence in controlling the game in deep areas. Off came Arda Turan too, with just 64%, and on came Cristian Ansaldi. This saw us move Juanfran up to RM, to hopefully give us more protection on that side. I finally changed both of my full backs to FB (S) roles to make them more conservative and keep us solid out wide.

The game passed by pleasantly without further incident, although I would've liked to have killed the game off, and we won 1-0. So, onto my conclusions.

Conclusions

The stats ended up like so: we had 15 shots and 6 on target compared to 4/1 for Celta. Possession stood at 52% vs 48%, with Koke MOTM with 7.6. Cerci had made the difference as a T (A) - this could be an option in future to break teams down - but I wasn't happy with how we'd struggled to create chances. Just the one CCC with 5 Half Chances which wasn't great at home against a lower side. I considered that I could have let Celta come out more and then exploited the space that gave us, but to be honest I enjoy being on the front foot so I'm not keen on that idea. Plus I felt we had the quality to break teams down anyway, although I admitted a compromise might be needed. I also wondered if we could switch to a 4-4-1-1 in these games, giving Koke a freer role behind the striker and making him more central, giving him more creative responsibility, still as an AP (A). This would probably encourage more runs from our STC, too, although I'd probably have to change his role to something like AF (A) or P (A), or possibly CF (A) or DLF (A).

That's about it from me, I now have Almeria away to play and I'll hopefully have a shorter write-up for that with less issues to discuss. I actually now have a third tactic to post about because I got a bit carried away and ended up making a pretty experimental one which I'm also really happy with so I've got some thoughts about that I want to go into detail about. That'll probably come before the Almeria match analysis. Thanks for reading if you got this far, and I'd welcome any thoughts or pointers. :)

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Getting Experimental With A... Tertiary...? Tactic: Tactic Analysis

So, I got a bit carried away. After I'd created my 3-4-1-2 to give us variation, I realised how much I had enjoyed making a completely new tactic, and since I had room for one final set-up I decided to make a third tactic to go with my primary and secondary shapes. I guess I'll be calling this my tertiary tactic which sounds odd to me, and I'll probably refer to it by its shape in future. Anyway, time to break down my thought process when making it, and then I've got a few things I'd like to discuss in a more general tactical sense.

*shuffles papers around, checking notes*

...so... apparently I didn't actually note down my thought process when creating the roles and duties in my formation, which was an error as I like to review it and see if I may have gone wrong, but I guess it'll be an exercise in itself to try to recall my thought process, because if I can't then maybe I was being a bit optimistic at the time - I thought of most of the roles as I drifted off to sleep...

Continuing as I had with the secondary tactic, I wanted to add further variation to my set of tactics. There were a couple of ways I could do this: with my shape, and with my roles. I did a bit of both. The only way I could vary my defence would be to use a SW and I was noooot comfortable with that (I've experimented a bit with these tactics, most of all with this third one, but a libero/sweeper is beyond me I'm afraid). I suppose I could have also pushed the full-backs into the wing-back strata but I wasn't sure that was a great change. I decided to just go with a back four because using a back three would make my 3-4-1-2 a bit less unique, and I wanted my tactics to all offer something different - this is something I thought about later: what exactly each tactic offers me, other than simply a different shape. So, a back four.

Two other ways I could vary it from my other tactics were using a diamond midfield and playing strikerless, two things that are very much in vogue at the moment, both in real football and FM, because I suppose they reflect each other. I guess another way I could have varied the tactic would be to use TIs to create a specific style of play, but I like creating a balanced side that can do a bit of everything so I once again left out TIs. I'd add one or two permanently when patterns emerged, like with my other two.

So, a back four, a diamond midfield and no striker. This left me with a 4-1-2-3-0 shape, with AML and AMR high up the pitch to compensate for the lack of a striker and to help us threaten offensively. I initially thought of using both as IF (A) but quickly realised that they didn't actually have to be direct goal threats in the middle of the pitch; I could use my CMs to take up that space, or other roles. Plus, none of my players really suited that role out wide, except maybe Cerci. So I decided against using IFs. I was initially going to use simply a W (A) for Griezmann, but then I thought, hey, let's be adventurous, and chose Raumdeuter, which I haven't yet used. I think the roles are kind of similar but the Raumdeuter is more focused on movement off the ball, whereas the winger tries to dribble and get a cross in. I think Griezmann is quite suited to both roles so he should do well in this one too. I wanted to balance this wide role with the opposite one, and luckily for me Arda Turan is very different to Griezmann, which allowed me to choose a role different to the Raumdeuter to create balance and still suit my players. I settled on the AP (S) which is actually another role I haven't used - not out wide anyway. I thought the WPM role would be available as a AMR/L but unfortunately not. Hopefully this role will achieve a similar effect, although I don't want him to be my main creator.

As for my AMC, there were a couple of roles to choose from here. I wanted a direct runner, on and off the ball, which narrowed it down to AM (A) and SS (A). I chose the AM (A) previously in a similar decision, but here I wanted my AMC to be my main goal threat, so I went with the SS (A). Plus this is all about making a more interesting tactic so the less common the role the better!

With my AMC less of a midfielder and more a striker, I was left effectively with a midfield three, with two MCs and one DMC sitting. I currently had two runners, my main goal threats, and one passer, my secondary creator, so I needed a primary creator and then somebody to offer a bit of both to give balance. That, I decided, would be the BBM (S), the midfielder who does a bit of everything, although I suppose I could change this to the CM (S). This is a role I haven't used much at all, including in this tactic, so I guess it would perhaps make it more interesting, but it does seem quite boring. Alongside my BBM I chose RPM (S). I'm not actually sure on the main differences between this role and the AP (A) and I had one of each in my previous tactic so I was unsure of which to choose, and I think it was just a gut decision in the end.

Behind my RPM and my BBM, I wanted to have a sitter, to complete the balance in my midfield trio where I have a passer and a runner (who I still want to be able to create, for balance's sake) but no defensive player. I ruled out regista because I don't need a creative player, and I didn't want the complications of the half-back; I wanted somebody to keep it simple and not venture from his position (Gabi's role is probably the most boring in all of the tactics - sorry bud). This left me between the DM (D) and the A (D) and I'm genuinely clueless as to the difference between the two as they sound like exactly the same role. I ended up using the A (D) because neither is more interesting and I've had more success with the Anchorman, I think. Plus Ron Burgundy.

I left my goalkeeper and CDs as standard, GK (D) and two CD (D)s, which left my full backs. I set the roles based on the wide men in front of them, choosing a CWB (A) on the right to compensate for my AP (S) hopefully drifting inside and leaving space for the overlap. On the other side I chose the opposite more or less, with a FB (S) being very conservative to make up for the RMD (A) having a free role and not much tracking back to do. This may give me a big gap in between the DL and the AML though, so I'll have to think about that and whether I want to push my DL forwards to reduce that gap, although that'll inevitably leave gaps in behind.

So that's how I decided the roles and duties, the main way I've given my tactics identity in this save so far, a method which I've enjoyed a lot. Here's the tactic with the players I expect to use:

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Not many things to note in terms of the sides I set players up on. I think the main thing I decided was to have the RPM on the opposite side to the AP. This gives me a playmaker on each side, just like in my other tactics. I also have one runner in the middle, the SS (A), and another on each side, with the RMD (A) on the left and the CWB (A) on the right. Then there's also the BBM who will make runs. I think most of the creative responsibility will lie with the RPM and the AP, although I hope the BBM will help out.

I think I envision this tactic as being a more direct one, and this is when I started to think more about when I would use it, as well as my other two tactics. It occurred to me that this tactic could be more useful against a team who plays a high line, because this formation with these roles should, I imagine, be more focused on vertical play and pressing from the front. I did try to use balanced roles, but the shape itself makes it more suited to a certain type of play I think. In the same way, the 4-5-1 lends itself to compact defending and measured attacks, I think, as well as good strong wide play and controlling possession in midfield. That might be why we've been a bit blunt against smaller sides, although it's a flexible formation and I should be able to make it suitable for breaking teams down. As for the 3-4-1-2, I'm not completely sure. I wonder if it might be suitable for counter attacks, direct wing play and also intricate central passing. I'd really love to hear people's thoughts on this because I don't particularly want to rely too much on trial and error in discovering which tactic is suited to which situation, and I want to make full use of all three. I love the idea of having three completely different shapes with different roles and switching between them at my own discretion.

Like I said earlier, no TIs have been set, because the shape, roles and duties will mainly influence how we play. I will likely add the same set of TIs added to my 4-5-1, Work Ball Into Box, Look For Overlap and Play Out Of Defence, as they reflect how I want to play, while I'll probably use Control mentality as they reflect how I expect Atletico to play, as well as I how I want to play as well, as I'd like to dictate the game and play on the front foot. This tactic may need a different mentality to suit its use, though, because as I noted it might be more useful as a swift counter-attacking team, although one that plays on the front foot and employs Gegenpressing rather than sitting back, although we'd do both in different phases of play I imagine. Just thinking aloud again.

I then started thinking a little bit about roles, and what they really are. Essentially, as I see it, the position is simply a blank canvas, and then the roles simply select a range of different PIs. For example, a Poacher is just a guy told Fewer Risky Passes and Get Further Forward. Writing it now, it all seems so obvious, but I'd never thought about it like that. Thinking about it that way makes it a little simpler, because then you realise that the role isn't the absolute king and it is of equal importance who is playing the role, because their PPMs and attributes will influence it perhaps just as much as the role's set PIs do. I suppose the level of how rigidly the role is interpreted depends on the Team Shape levels; More Structured will see it carried out to a tee, whereas More Fluid will see a very loose interpretation, and then everything in between. It's nice to be able to work these things out gradually rather than simply be stumped and have to guess which setting to use.

Another think that occurred to me, which I'd discussed a little previously, was that different roles are often suited to different styles of playing, and you can either look to achieve balance by selecting a variation of roles or focus more on one style of play by selecting roles which all suit one type of play. For example, in a midfield pairing in front of a simple DM (D), you could choose a CM (A) and a BBM (S) for a counter-attacking tactic, focusing on direct central play and fast attacks, because those roles are quite direct in their running and passing. You could also choose a DLP (S) and an AP (A) for a possession-based tactic, focusing on short passing and slow build-up, because those roles are more about creativity and short passing, although they will mix it up, particularly the DLP. Personally I look to achieve balance so that my team can do different things; I want us to be able to counter attack quickly and also build play patiently, rather than focusing on one and neglecting the other. This might mean we become jack of all trades and master of none, though, so I may eventually tweak my three tactics to make one focused on counter-attacking, one based on possession play and one... well there must be another style of play... I can't actually think of a third general style although there are certainly different more specific styles within both counter-attacking and possession play. For example, gegenpressing as a counter-attacking style is quite different to one which simply sits back on the edge of their own box in a compact shape, inviting their opposition out and waiting for them to give the ball away before counter-attacking swiftly; one will start counter-attacks high up the pitch after making interceptions and the other will counter from deeper positions (meaning maybe more focus on players who can dribble than players who can run off the ball, with both requiring pace and decisions attributes to be high - it all ties together!).

I've rambled enough, and I still want to discuss the tactic in terms of my squad and also in the different phases. Just as with the 3-4-1-2, here's roughly how I envision it in the attacking phase:

GK

CD - CD

----- A --- FB

CWB - BBM -----

--- AP -- RPM

--- SS -----RMD

Like with the 3-4-1-2, this is nothing set in stone - I'd expect the CWB and the BBM in particular to be moving up and down these different rows, depending on what we're doing. I suppose there are different attacking phases, so this is how I see us in the final phase of attacking, more or less. One thing to note is a possible lack of width on the left. I might choose to make the FB a WB on support or attack to offset that, as we'll still have two CDs and an anchorman, as well as a BBM to help out too. I'll have to see how it behaves when I decide to be brave enough to use it!

As for my squad depth with this tactic (like I said I like to have two players for each position on the pitch) here are my back-ups to those in the screenshot, with explanations/elaborations where needed:

GK: Miquel Angel Moya

DR: Jesus Gamez

DCR: A bit like with my 3-4-1-2, Jose Maria Gimenez will be my third choice, and one of Saul, Jesus Gamez and Cristian Ansaldi will fill in here if needed, depending on personnel available

DCL: See above

DL: Cristian Ansaldi

DMC: Mario Suarez

MCR: Also Mario Suarez - this is the part where the squad is most stretched as there are six 'midfielders' in all in this formation

MCL: Tiago

AMR: Alessio Cerci will play here, meaning a slight adjustment. I would use him as an IF (S), and I wonder then if he might get in the way of the BBM more than the AP might (though this may still be an issue). If I used Cerci as an IF (S), I'd probably make the BBM a DLP, both to stop them getting in each other's way and also to maintain passer/runner balance. I see the IF as more of a runner, although with more of an emphasis on passing than the IF (A), and I also see the BBM as a runner, although they're both a little split between an emphasis on running and passing. Either way they're both runners in my eyes, so I'd use a DLP to maintain balance and keep the MCR in a deeper creative role to make up for the creativity lost without the AP (S)

AMC: I don't really have great options here. Raul Garcia is naturally a SS (A) but I don't think he's exactly what I want. He's quite a physical, aerial threat who can pop up with goals in support of a main threat but I'm not sure he can be my main guy. His back-up is even less suited to the role - Angel Correa was the only other play I felt anywhere near comfortable using here. I want to use the transfer market here, and I'll touch on that at the end of the post

AML: Cristian Rodriguez

So yeah, most of my roles are covered although that CB depth is still a problem, with Saul, a first-choice in this tactic (I want him to play more) and Gamez and Ansaldi, both back-ups, required to potentially cover multiple roles. I'll look to find a young CB who won't demand minutes but be able to develop into a future first choice, with Godin and Miranda both getting old. Haven't had much luck so far. I've had a little more luck in searching for somebody to perform the SS (A) role, effectively making Raul Garcia back-up for either that role or the BBM role, possibly both.

It's not just the SS (A) role I want this new player to perform, though. In my 3-4-1-2 I'm not totally convinced by Raul Garcia as the AM (A) either, because he's not a particularly strong dribbler or particularly fast either, which is what I wanted the AM (A) to offer. I also didn't think I had many options for the CM (A), a role which isn't in any of my tactics I don't think, but one which I like to switch to in order to give my midfield an emphasis on counter-attacking. I was reluctant to call it a Central Winger previously because I had nobody to carry out the role. Furthermore, I have no back-up to Arda Turan in my primary tactic, after a loan move for Simone Padoin failed in the summer. So, that leaves me with four roles looking a bit lacking through-out my various tactics:

1. A good SS (A) for my AMC role in the 4-1-2-3-0 - essential as I need him to be a good goal threat

2. A good AM (A) for my AMC role in the 3-4-1-2 - important as he's likely to be an integral part of that formation

3. A good CM (A) for my MCR role in the 4-5-1 - something of a priority as I like making this switch in-game to help us on the counter

4. A back-up WM (A) for Arda Turan's MR role in the 4-5-1 - would be nice in case he gets injured

With four roles to carry out in my team, I feel this player if he came in would get a lot of game time and therefore it's important to me to bring somebody in. Also, when I looked at the attributes I wanted, a lot of them seemed to be ones I missed in central positions going forward. With Raul Garcia and Mario Mandzukic I have powerful, strong players, in Koke and Arda I have creative players who are good at passing, and Griezmann and Cerci are good dribbles but are mainly either used out wide or as STCs. I wanted somebody who could drive us forward from deep central positions as a Central Winger using dribbling skills and speed, although as an SS (A) and an AM (A) the positions would be more advanced.

I thought about the attributes needed, and for me the first three roles, SS (A), AM (A) and CM (A), all require similar ones. The WM (A) role attributes were of less importance to me, particularly because it can be played by many types of players. Here, in descending order of importance (ie. most important first), are the attributes I jotted down:

Dribbling

Pace/Acceleration

Off The Ball

Decisions

Finishing

Agility

Composure

Passing

First Touch

Strength

Bear in mind that I have three roles to think about so some of those attributes are of equal importance or of different importance depending on which role you're thinking about. Those were the ones I was looking for, though, with the important ones hopefully 15+ and the less important ones (the final four, probably) preferably around 12. I'd want Dribbling and the speed-based attributes to definitely be around 16, with Off The Ball, Decisions, Finishing and Agility all at least 14. Inevitably I'd need to make some compromises so I didn't set these exact search parameters. Besides, I've only just thought of these numbers while writing! [edit: the only player in FM who actually fits these attributes turns out to be Gareth Bale! Think he's a bit unrealistic. Also, I looked at adding Flair, Teamwork and Balance but I thought that would be being picky]

Having played around with the search function, these were the players I got scout reports on and decided to ask my scouting pool to watch for a month:

Giovani dos Santos

Isco

Sofiane Feghouli

Javier Pastore

Phillipe Coutinho

Erik Lamela

Christian Eriksen

Juan Iturbe

Sergio Canales

Suso

Andre Ayew

Interestingly, the two players I managed to think of before loading up FM to search, Lazar Markovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, didn't actually seem to come up in any of my searches. Those were the eleven players I commissioned further scouting reports on, though, and I think they're all close to what I'm looking for; some more realistic than others. At the moment I have my eye on Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia. As always I'd love to hear what people think.

That's about it from me (again I've written way too much) and I have the Almeria away match to write about next. :)

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Very thorough and insightful mate. Indeed a lot of writing, but all worth while, I like the way you are writing it out following your thought process.

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Very thorough and insightful mate. Indeed a lot of writing, but all worth while, I like the way you are writing it out following your thought process.

Cheers! Glad to hear it. By the way, your username and location reminds me of somebody from a forum I used to visit. You don't happen to support Valencia do you? If not, never mind! (also sorry for straying momentarily off-topic, mods...)

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Fantastic stuff mate! Really enjoying this thread and I'm looking forward to seeing how the 3-4-1-2 and 4-6-0 work.

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Cheers! Glad to hear it. By the way, your username and location reminds me of somebody from a forum I used to visit. You don't happen to support Valencia do you? If not, never mind! (also sorry for straying momentarily off-topic, mods...)

Nope not me :) Although I do use this username on another forum (NLSC)

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Fantastic stuff mate! Really enjoying this thread and I'm looking forward to seeing how the 3-4-1-2 and 4-6-0 work.

Thanks very much! Glad to hear it. I am as well haha, once I pluck up the courage to try them out. I do think I'll need to understand them a little better, because I'll need to have a good understanding of their strengths, weaknesses and styles so I know when to use them, instead of simply throwing them in at the deep end in a random game. :)

Nope not me :) Although I do use this username on another forum (NLSC)

Fair enough! Just a coincidence then.

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Honeymoon Over: Analysis Of My Frustration

At this point I should probably change the title to "Getting my tactics wrong on FM15" because that's what it feels like I've done in the last two games. I can't be bothered to write up a full analysis of either of the last two games I've played because they were way too frustrating (I've only just finished the second so I'm no mood) but I certainly want to cover the games because I clearly approached them wrong.

The first game was Almeria away and this ended in an annoying 1-1 draw. Before the game I knew they'd play a 4-4-1-1 with two DMs so I knew that could frustrate us and cause us problems on the counter-attack too and it certainly frustrated us. They were DWDL, losing 3-0 away to Real Sociedad and beating Getafe 4-1 away. Draws were 1-1 home draws with Espanyol and Cordoba. I thought I should win this so went with Control, Work Ball Into Box, Play Out Of Defence, Look For Overlap and Close Down More, looking to seek the initiative after we'd struggled away to a similar side in Rayo. We were almost full strength, with Raul Garcia up front as a CF (S) and Saul as our BBM.

We didn't start very well, and I chose to switch to Counter because we were too open and they seemed dangerous. I thought this would draw them out and then we could hit them on the counter-attack. This was something I had been reluctant to do previously as I wanted to dominate games but I decided it was necessary so I gave it a go. I also removed Look For Overlap and Close Down More before later removing Work Ball Into Box to stop us from having a low tempo on our counters. Later I changed our CMs to DLP (S) and CM (A) to focus a little more on the counter.

We started to have a couple of half-chances from patient play before taking the lead from a similar move. I was really pleased with how we worked it. It came from a throw-in deep on the right, we recycled it to the left with Miranda and we worked it perfectly and incisively into the box for Raul Garcia to score. 1-0 to us and I thought they would open up even more and we'd be able to extend our lead and stay stable at the back. Here is the move unfolding:

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I told us at HT to keep working and kick on, and as the second half went on (with us mostly comfortable) I made a few changes to tighten us up further. Raul Garcia to DF (S), Gabi off on a booking for Mario Suarez, and making Juanfran, my CWB (A), a WB (S) to be a bit more conservative but retain the overlap threat. On 72 minutes Saul was knackered, and I wanted a direct threat in his CM (A) position. I decided to move Raul Garcia back there, and I didn't have many options for STC, with Cerci on the bench pretty tired after saving the day against Celta. I decided to put my ML, Antoine Griezmann, up front as a CF (S) because I felt he had the skillset and could offer a combination of creativity and hold-up play. I also added a PI of Shoot Less because he has a habit of taking stupid shots (PPM). C-Rod came on for Saul as a ML. My final change was removing Koke who'd had a poor game mostly as a DLP (S) with just 5.9. On came Tiago for legs and experience.

Then on 80 minutes after Almeria had done absolutely sod all, their CB or DM took a punted long shot from all of 40 yards with us compact and secure. It was straight at Oblak but I guess it must have swerved (I'm being really nice to give him the benefit of the doubt here) and he parried it. Straight to the sub who'd just came on and he scored his first goal ever for Almeria. Figures.

I can't remember if we switched mentality but we certainly pushed forward for a winner. I ended up absolutely furious at how we handled it - I had told Griezmann to Shoot Less and he got the ball in a dangerous position on the right, and just ended up smashing it miles over when there was no way he'd score from there, and should have crossed. We ended up having 18 shots and just a pathetic 4 on target; Almeria had a ratio of 8/4. We'd had 11 long shots and not a single one had been of any use. It was at this point I decided I would never untick Work Ball Into Box ever again, because long shots are largely absolutely pointless and our shooting had been horrendously wasteful. Possession was 52% - 48% in their favour but that makes sense because we'd sat back looking to counter after going 1-0 up. I thought this would work but looking back we didn't really seem too bothered about countering properly. Something I need to look at I guess, even though I kind of did... I could have added TIs but I thought the whole point of choosing a mentality like Counter is that it sets those things anyway, like Pass Into Space, Direct Passing etc. Bit confused about that tbh.

Then we had Sevilla at home four days later which was even more annoying. I realised I should have rested more players at Almeria (although they probably would have beaten us) because I had to make a few changes with Napoli and Valencia games within the week. They would also play a 4-4-1-1 with two DMs and there's a real theme of us struggling against this. I decided I would think about pushing Koke into the AMC position as an AP (A) in a 4-4-1-1 to get him in between their DMs if we struggled. We did.

We dominated possession for most of the first half but rarely in decent areas, despite my persistent tweaks to change that. Meanwhile every time Sevilla got the ball they looked dangerous and I was at a loss to why because it was mostly just Aspas, Bacca and some very average players. They went 1-0 up through a free-kick rebound (we were giving away stupid fouls and yellow cards when Closing Down More, even though I wasn't really asking my players to kick and foul them...) and as soon as that happened on 12 minutes I switched to a 4-4-1-1 with Koke as the AMC. Cerci, previously a T (A) up front, became in AF (A) to stretch the defence and not get in Koke's way. It looked to have an effect as Koke immediately got the ball on the edge of the box and had a good save pushed away.

That was a false dawn and we resumed doing absolutely nothing with the ball, on Control with Work Ball Into Box, Close Down More and Play Out Of Defence my only shouts. Meanwhile they still looked dangerous when they got the ball. I decided that we were, somehow, being too cautious and not committing enough men forward and being too patient, so I switched to attacking to get more bodies forward, increase the tempo and so on.

Ten minutes later and nothing had changed, my players simply didn't seem like they knew what to do. I figured this was because they had few TIs (thought this would help originally but apparently it did the opposite which I can understand as they need guidance) so I decided to change again and give clear guidance on how I wanted us to attack. I wanted our full backs to be overlapping, letting our wide midfielders come inside, and the AP (A) to dictate our moves from the centre with help from the BBM and WM, with the AF and W making runs and the full backs ready to cross. Control, Play Narrower, Look For Overlap, Push Higher Up, Short Passing, Higher Tempo. I thought these last two would make us purposeful but not wasteful, while Push Higher Up would get us in attacking positions near their box, which so far we hadn't gotten near.

Nope! None of these worked and Sevilla just ended up passing the ball around us with absolutely no pressure on them and it seemed like we had a man disadvantage. I was forced into a change as Carrico pretty much killed Cerci, my only STC with Mandzukic on the bench not quite ready to play. It was at this point I decided to bin the 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 (for now - I need to be patient long-term) and give one of my other tactics a whirl because my 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 against their own deep 4-4-1-1 was doing absolutely nothing for us. Because of the afore-mentioned lack of strikers I pretty much had to choose the 4-1-2-3-0, bringing on a rested Arda Turan. Oblak; Ansaldi, Gamez, Miranda, Siqueira; Gabi; Mario Suarez, Koke; Arda, Raul Garcia, Griezmann. Roles as above. This sparked us into life and we actually seemed to know what we needed to do, passing it instantly with tempo and purpose in front of their box, leading to a Koke shot being saved (hopefully not another false dawn).

Half time came with a kick up the back-side but it didn't really seem to do much and yeah it seemed like the initial purpose shown was just a brief thing, as absolutely nothing happened for us. They actually looked more likely to score, going clean through with Carlos Bacca. I don't actually know if we had any chances in the second half although we were occasionally in decent areas (as opposed to the first half where we struggled to get near their box).

I'm definitely not giving up with either formation but I'm really frustrated with the two games played. It could be a case of the 4-4-1-1 with two DMs being a hard formation to play against but there must be more to it than that. I probably need to do a little closer detailed analysis of our build-up play to understand why we just couldn't create chances in either game but for now I'm too irritated to revisit either. In the meantime any thoughts would be much appreciated. Cheers.

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I wonder if maybe you need to do the opposite - do a little less analysis.

On average, how many things are you changing during a game, and how often? I have skimmed the last few posts and i would say its a lot. Now, Guardiola often bases his success on constant ingame changes, but he is in the minority with that approach (then again, he is also in minority who have won something like 17 trophies in 5 years!).

Think of Simeone and Athletico in real life. They very very rarely deviate from a clear game plan. They have a shape, it can vary slightly (mainly from 442 to 4411 or 451 - but its one player only changing, the second striker/link man) but they very rarely change their core approach in game. Did they play well, and dominate every period of every game last year? Not at all. Sometimes they played poorly, sometime they were outplayed. But Simeone had absolute confidence in sticking to his approach. Also worth noting that he build this approach the previous year and despite not winning the league, he stuck with it more often than not.

I would challenge you to pick one of your approaches, and stick to it even for 2/3 full games. Perhaps make minor tweaks - mentality at team level to reflect the game situation, but other than that let it run. Ride out a bad 10min spell and dont react by changing 2 roles and a TI every time you see something not go quite right during a match. Even the greatest teams do not do everything right on the pitch for 90mins each week.

At the moment you are Ranieri - Become Simeone :)

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I was just about to reply to this thread saying that I had initially found it bewildering that you had started on a few tangents from your initial formation/plan, but I had then started to really enjoy the way in which you were constructing your newer tactics in a logical way. I sincerely enjoy your philosophy of balancing runners and passers in midfield, it seems like a great simple way to look at chance creation that i'd not really considered.

However, I must say that your most recent post was really disappointing! You should have always expected teething problems with your tactic, but to virtually throw away your continued analysis really cheapened the thread for me. All FM players will understand your frustrations - there's no doubt about it - but to deny yourself the in-depth analysis that was serving you well (in favour of what seemed like a scattergun approach to your in match strategy) is a disservice to the other great posts in this thread.

I'm sorry if my words seem harsh, but I have been really enjoying your progress in this thread. I was hoping that you would get your hands really dirty once you encountered your first few stumbling blocks in the tactic, but it sounds like you're ready to throw it all away already! Keep going, it's a great thread!

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I wonder if maybe you need to do the opposite - do a little less analysis.

On average, how many things are you changing during a game, and how often? I have skimmed the last few posts and i would say its a lot. Now, Guardiola often bases his success on constant ingame changes, but he is in the minority with that approach (then again, he is also in minority who have won something like 17 trophies in 5 years!).

Think of Simeone and Athletico in real life. They very very rarely deviate from a clear game plan. They have a shape, it can vary slightly (mainly from 442 to 4411 or 451 - but its one player only changing, the second striker/link man) but they very rarely change their core approach in game. Did they play well, and dominate every period of every game last year? Not at all. Sometimes they played poorly, sometime they were outplayed. But Simeone had absolute confidence in sticking to his approach. Also worth noting that he build this approach the previous year and despite not winning the league, he stuck with it more often than not.

I would challenge you to pick one of your approaches, and stick to it even for 2/3 full games. Perhaps make minor tweaks - mentality at team level to reflect the game situation, but other than that let it run. Ride out a bad 10min spell and dont react by changing 2 roles and a TI every time you see something not go quite right during a match. Even the greatest teams do not do everything right on the pitch for 90mins each week.

At the moment you are Ranieri - Become Simeone :)

Thanks for your thoughts Jambo. I have to say, I completely agree with you! I don't want to be Ranieri forever, that's for sure (I'd like to know my tactic well enough to be able to tweak at times if needed though) but I feel like this period of trying different things is needed for me to fine-tune my tactic? Because I think I'll need a few permanent TIs for most games, ones which suit my players, my formation and my roles, and I'm trying to discover what exactly those will be. I've had a few more thoughts about that which I'm going to write about in a post later this evening. The tactic is still in its development stages so I'm trying to do different things and see what works, although this maybe needs a bit more thought? Or, perhaps as you say, less thought. One part which I'm finding tricky is to detach myself from the results. My main priority is to learn about tactics so to do that sometimes I'll need to accept losing, so I can learn from my mistakes. However, I've finally found a save I'm enjoying and I don't want to lose that. Hopefully I'm just enjoying it because of my new approach, so I'll try to put less emphasis on results and more emphasis on learning. :) Thanks as always for your thoughts.

I was just about to reply to this thread saying that I had initially found it bewildering that you had started on a few tangents from your initial formation/plan, but I had then started to really enjoy the way in which you were constructing your newer tactics in a logical way. I sincerely enjoy your philosophy of balancing runners and passers in midfield, it seems like a great simple way to look at chance creation that i'd not really considered.

However, I must say that your most recent post was really disappointing! You should have always expected teething problems with your tactic, but to virtually throw away your continued analysis really cheapened the thread for me. All FM players will understand your frustrations - there's no doubt about it - but to deny yourself the in-depth analysis that was serving you well (in favour of what seemed like a scattergun approach to your in match strategy) is a disservice to the other great posts in this thread.

I'm sorry if my words seem harsh, but I have been really enjoying your progress in this thread. I was hoping that you would get your hands really dirty once you encountered your first few stumbling blocks in the tactic, but it sounds like you're ready to throw it all away already! Keep going, it's a great thread!

As you say I've kind of gone between different approaches at points in this thread, but I guess I'm just trying to find out how I like to manage and how I like to create tactics. Like you, and as you can tell, I like the balancing of runners and passers, although it hasn't quite clicked in my last two games. This is still going to be a key part of how I build tactics in future, so I've learned that already for certain. Thanks for your kind words!

I completely understand why you feel that way, and I think my error was writing about the games immediately after I'd played the Sevilla match. I was annoyed and frustrated, and hadn't had the chance to take a step back and really think things through logically, as I had done previously. I think that's something I'll do in future because I didn't really learn from the games as I was writing about them, which is something I'd benefited from previously when writing up match analyses a few hours after playing them. You're right also about my scatter-gun approach in those two games too. I put thought into each one, but I was starting to get desperate because we were doing absolutely nothing which panicked me. Like Jambo suggested above, it'd be wise in future to wait a bit longer at times, which is something I'm going to try to do as well. Plus, like you say, tactics have teething problems and we'd been doing alright before, although creating chances had been a consistent issue, despite our wins.

My immediate frustration at the time doesn't reflect my overall feelings, don't worry. I've had a chance to think about things and I have some more ideas to try out which I'll detail a bit later. Thanks for your comment and I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying the thread so far (until my frustration in the previous post)! :)

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Are you really "learning" when you are chopping and changing so much? Can you really "learn" if a specific approach works in 45mins or less? I believe the answer is firmly "no". There are far too many other factors in play at any given time. There are some things which are blindingly obvious, but much more which needs to be watched over a period of games. There are any number of things in my 451 system, which in the end has won me things by miles and produced lovely football, which i could have thrown out after 2 games if i judged things as quickly.

You dont seem to have settled on an identity - that can take time, but something you should work towards IMO, especially with a big club like Athletico, who can afford to pick an identity and largely stick to it and have success :)

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Fine-tuning My Approach: Choosing Sets of Tactical Instructions

On the train back from London today I started to think about how to develop my tactics further, and I had an idea of how to take things to the next level with all three of them, although I'll be focusing on the primary tactic first and foremost. I thought about how, as Cleon had discussed in 'Building a Tactic', there are more or less three types of games. The way I see it, there are games you expect to win (against lesser sides, where you need to break them down and guard against the counter), games you expect to lose (against better sides, where you need to frustrate them and create opportunities on the break) and games which you probably expect to draw (against sides of a similar level, where perhaps the game will be decided in central midfield?).

As is pretty logical and a very common approach, I decided that I could use Control in games I expect to win, Counter in games I expect to lose, and Standard in games I expect to draw. This would apply for each of my tactics. So my chosen mentality reflects how aggressively I want to play and whether I want us to look to play on the front foot (Control), on the back foot (Counter) or neither (Standard). My chosen roles and duties reflect how I want each player to play, and how I want them to combine also. But there's something missing here and I think it's why we were so poor against Sevilla. Well, not just poor, but out of ideas. I've so far neglected the TIs side of things, looking to create a style of play of sorts through a combination of mentality, formation and roles, but the most effective way to create a style of play for your whole team is by using those TIs to emphasise parts of your game and to focus the team on certain things, like shorter passing if you have better short passers, or look for overlap if the opposition is affording you space out wide. Roles and duties are mainly about individual behaviour and mentality is about your general approach - how high up the pitch you play, how much you close down, the tempo you play with, your passing length and so on. These things are linked to style but the best way to really create a style is by using a combination of TIs to emphasise a certain way of playing, because roles and duties focus on the individual and mentality is more generic, and needs TIs used with it so that your players know exactly how to play. So roles and duties as well as player instructions decide how your players play as individuals, and by combining mentality and tactical instructions decide how you play as a team; as a unit.

I'm pretty certain that this is what we're missing: a clear game-plan. We know roughly which mentality we'd use in each type of game (although I've only just decided about that for certain now) but I hadn't chosen a set of tactical instructions to reflect what our game-plan would be in each game. When I realised this, I decided to create three sets of tactical instructions to go with each tactic. So my primary tactic would have three possible mentalities: Counter, Standard and Control, then it would have three possible sets of shouts - one to go with each mentality. When setting these up, I'd need to think about a few things. Firstly, exploiting the space given to me by the opposition. For example, in games I expect to win, using the Control mentality, teams would sit back and be compact, and I would need to pick a set of TIs focused on using the space they give me: in front of the defence and down the wings. For this I could use things like play wider, look for overlap, work ball into box, shorter passing. These are all things that are probably set to some extent by the Control mentality, but like I said before it's about really focusing on certain parts of the game based on the situation. Our approach before was too generic, and we needed to focus in on a way of playing. Creating these sets of TIs to go with each possible mentality allows me to create a game-plan for each possible type of game. Inevitably there will be some which don't fit perfectly into one of the three I outlined above, and even in those that do I might need to adjust something. For example I might face a team I expect to beat whose strengths are in their wide players. I might not go with Look For Overlap or Play Wider, either because I'm wary of committing my full backs too far forwards or because I want to expose them in the middle of the pitch.

Another thing I need to think about when setting up these sets of TIs (let's call them game-plans from now on) are the roles, duties and formations in each tactic. I don't think identical game-plans will work for each tactic, because the roles, duties and formations in each are wildly different, and I think the way we choose to play as a team with each tactic has to reflect the roles, duties and formations of each tactic. For example, I'm not quite sure if Look For Overlap would be suited to the 3-4-1-2 because we'd only have one layer of width, and so when deciding upon a Control game-plan we'd probably have to focus more on breaking teams down in the middle because that's where the tactic is strong in numbers.

My aim is to pick 5/6 tactical instructions for each game-plan in Control and Counter, focusing on using the space left by the opponent in each one, and then to have even fewer in my Standard one. The reason for this is that I might need to make more tweaks in these games, and they're more unpredictable than the others, because my opposition could sit back more. I know how Real Madrid will play against me, so I can feel secure in selecting a Counter mentality, and I know how Eibar will play against me, so I can select Control. Against sides like Napoli though I'm not quite so sure so it would be a good idea to select a very neutral game-plan and see how they play before deciding upon a more focused game-plan, either on Control or Counter. My Standard game-plan will contain just two TIs, I think, which will be Play Out Of Defence and Work Ball Into Box. These reflect how I want to play in a more general sense, because I don't like pointless long shots in good positions or aimless long balls from defence.

I had also considered swapping around the mentalities, using Counter against teams who I expect to win against and Control against teams who I expect to lose against. My thinking was that teams like Real Madrid will want to be on the front foot, and they will have prepared as such. It would definitely disorientate them if they met a team who didn't let them do that and tried to play on the front foot. Eibar would be expecting to be on the back foot, so coming out of their shells and being on the front foot would probably be uncomfortable for them. However, I decided that I would get space even if I allowed Real Madrid to be on the front foot or Eibar to be on the back foot, whether that's behind their defence (Real) or in front of and to the sides of their defence (Eibar). Plus using Control in games I expect to win and so on just seems so much more intuitive, and reflective of what the TC descriptions say.

That's it from me, I now need to take a look at the different TIs, split them into those that focus on breaking teams down and those that focus on counter attacking, and then decide for my primary tactic which ones suit the roles, duties and formations as well as the players that we have and thus the game-plan that would suit us. This is a pretty logical approach and I think what most people would do with their tactic, and it's taken me a while to get there (if this is what I settle upon). It's pretty similar to what I did in first place too! However I've reached the decision to do it this time with a much more thoughtful and logical thought process, so hopefully that will serve us well. I actually have a better idea of how to choose which TIs to use, unlike the first time around when I simply chose every TI that would make us good on the counter for the counter-attacking tactic, rather than thinking about which ones would suit the formation, roles and duties and the players I had available.

Thanks for reading and I hope this was interesting, even though it basically outlines the thought process of any decent FM player in a much more convoluted way! As always, any thoughts are appreciated.

edit: Having thought about it a bit more and looked at the available TIs, I don't want my Control and Counter game-plans to look too different. I think it's still possible for me to create an identity without leaning too far towards either one. There are certain TIs which lend themselves to breaking teams down and to counter-attacking effectively, but then there are those which simply modify the way you play and are entirely focused on the players at your disposal and the roles that they're playing, without having much to do with mentality. The more I think about it, the more I think that I'll use Standard and a few 'neutral' PIs (which aren't focused on breaking teams down/counter-attacking) to create our actual philosophy, then look into which of the TIs could be used on Control or Counter to break teams down or frustrate teams and counter them, in addition to those used in Standard for our over-arching philosophy.

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Are you really "learning" when you are chopping and changing so much? Can you really "learn" if a specific approach works in 45mins or less? I believe the answer is firmly "no". There are far too many other factors in play at any given time. There are some things which are blindingly obvious, but much more which needs to be watched over a period of games. There are any number of things in my 451 system, which in the end has won me things by miles and produced lovely football, which i could have thrown out after 2 games if i judged things as quickly.

You dont seem to have settled on an identity - that can take time, but something you should work towards IMO, especially with a big club like Athletico, who can afford to pick an identity and largely stick to it and have success :)

Good point! I hope that doesn't completely invalidate everything I've just written in my latest post haha, I'll have to consider that, although I think that with my new idea my decisions will be based much less on trial and error - which as you say is actually an unreliable way of doing things on FM - and more based on a sensible thought process. I thought trial and error could work, but 1. It doesn't, as you say and 2. I have enough information at my disposal to make intelligent decisions and selections of TIs etc without needing to play guesswork.

What you say about an identity is spot on, and like I said it was clearly lacking against Sevilla. I hope that my new idea of creating game-plans via TIs, and basing them on the players I have and the roles I've created for them, will help me form an identity for the team. :)

edit: another thought I have is that I'll probably have two separate identities, one as my Control game-plan and one as my Counter game-plan (if I go ahead with that idea, and I'm going to give it a try as I think it makes sense). I do want to have a clear identity but I think that's easier for us to do when we're on the front foot; when you're on the back foot it's something you either sacrifice for the sake of being pragmatic and getting results, or you try to continue to do and lose with, as Arsene Wenger has found out. At the same time, you can have a defensive identity and then struggle in games you're expected to dominate because you haven't established an attacking identity (Sam Allardyce knows this from West Ham, and is now I think working on that). I think that to be successful you need to have a way of playing - an identity - that suits your players when you're the better team and also have a way of playing that suits your players when you're not the better team. Otherwise you'll get found out by sticking too strongly to your main philosophy, which for Atletico I think should be our 'Control' philosophy/game-plan/identity, because we'll be playing that kind of game more, since we're the 3rd best team in the league I'd say.

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Adapting To My Players: A Need For Pragmatism?

Just a couple of hours ago I was writing about how I would look to create a set of TIs to go with the Control mentality and create a style of play for games where we're expected to win. This is something that I have discovered is part of my style as a manager: I want us to approach different games differently, and when we're the better side I want to dominate games, spend the majority of it in the opposition half and work opportunities through patient but purposeful build-up play. So, in that sense, that post helped me a lot in learning a bit more about the way I like to play, and it's definitely a way of playing that I want to follow through with.

However, when I tried to pick some TIs to use with my Standard game-plan, which would form my actual philosophy, I started to remind myself of how Atletico played last season, so that I could pick suitable TIs to form an general identity and a style of play. I was hoping then to keep these in the Control game-plan and add things like Work Ball Into Box and Lower Tempo, to fit with what I mentioned above, with things like Pass Into Space and Be More Disciplined possibly added to the Counter game-plan. And as I recalled Atleti's style of play last season, they had a very specific style of play far removed from anything I've been doing so far, at least in attack anyway. While I was trying to break teams down with patient build-up play, because this is my preferred style of play, they were aggressive and played with a high tempo, with very little emphasis on possession.

I want to have a balance between pragmatism and idealism as a manager, but I think right now I need to be pragmatic. This is Simeone's squad - I have made no signings and sold no players. So, it'd be silly to try and make them play in an entirely different way, especially because the squad is so suited to how Simeone had them playing - he'd been there long enough to form an identity with his squad to reflect the tactics he desired. This is something I must aim for as well, and I can't expect a squad of players who'd been playing a very different style of play to instantly be successful at something else. Not only does adapting take time for the players, but some simply are not suited and never will be suited to the type of play I'm looking to produce.

So, with that in mind, I have two choices: keep trying to get my players to play in my desired style (this will be most games as we should use Control for most games) and hope that they'll adapt, although it's unlikely that they will and we'll probably have to take some frustrating losses on the chin, or I can be pragmatic, play to their strengths for now and gradually introduce a different style of play by tweaking the playing squad and the tactics each summer (I'd like to avoid making big changes in January as this could disrupt us so I'll do most of my business in summer). The first approach reminds me of how Andre Villas-Boas did as Chelsea and Tottenham manager, playing high lines when his sides weren't so suited to them (something I'm guilty of too, I think) and he was criticised for not being flexible enough, so I want to be flexible and also get results.

It's still my tactic in terms of the roles, which I chose based on the players anyway, so if I choose the TIs, team mentality and team shape based on the team and how they performed last season this should match up well. Even though this will be more a case of attempting to recreate a tactic, I still want to build my own tactic with my own identity stamped on it, and this thread has helped greatly so far in both discovering my identity and discovering how to put that into action on FM, even if it hasn't given me results yet. I think having discovered my identity I now know that Atletico's players are not particularly suited to it, although I greatly admire how Simeone had them playing. I think it'll be fun having them play in a similar way too, although my priority isn't to recreate the tactic; it's simply short-term success, in order to give me time in the long-term to gradually mould the squad into my own image (as Simeone did) and gradually change the tactics to reflect that.

I apologise to anyone reading this thread who's a bit confused by my jumping from one idea to the other, because it's probably quite... back and forth, but this thread is intended to help me re-learn FM tactics and I feel like I'm getting there, and I've realised a lot of things just by trying one idea and then moving onto another.

For the moment, having struggled to create game-plans based on how I want to play, I am being pragmatic and my focus is on setting Atletico up similarly to how they are in real life. I want success rather than a perfect reflection though so I won't seek to make an identical tactic, but rather something that will work in FM. I may even decide I prefer this style of play and change my identity! My goal for the future is to set up a squad which is flexible and allows me to play in different ways, but that's a long way away.

Right now, I've been doing some analysis of Atletico in real life, reading written analyses of their style and watching videos of their goals, to get a better idea of how they play. Some TIs that occurred to me while reading...

Exploit The Flanks - they scored a lot of their swift counter-attacks through the middle but they've got great headers of the ball this season as they did last, and their full backs bomb on in attack

Higher Tempo - this is an absolute must, as Atletico work the ball quickly from back to front with a lot of intricate passes. I didn't want to choose short or direct passing because I felt it was a bit of both, but if anything it's probably short. I'll leave this for now

Be More Disciplined - as noted by Michael Cox, Atletico were one of the most disciplined and cohesive units ever seen (might I want to select Structured here I wonder...) so this is vital too

Tighter Marking - I wasn't quite sure how to replicate their 'pressing traps' but I decided I didn't want to leave gaps in behind, so instead of Close Down More I chose Tighter Marking to cut off options of players off the ball instead of those on the ball. I hope this will work but I'm unsure of how Tighter Marking actually works

Drop Deeper - Atletico were compact off the ball and didn't look to retain possession high in the opposition half, but instead looked to be organised off the ball and break with intensity when they got it back (their average possession % last season was below 50%, remarkable for a league winner as noted by Michael Cox)

I would then choose the Attacking Team Mentality (still undecided as to the Team Shape) to reflect the aggression and tempo of Atletico, as well as the fact that they are a proactive counter-attacking side. I thought Attacking and Drop Deeper would be better to achieve a counter-attacking style for a team like Atletico than actually using Counter and trying a few different shouts to achieve their aggression on and off the ball.

I realise that I've kind of veered away from creating my own tactic for now, but I think it's a necessary evil. Like I said, this might be more of a long-term thing so hopefully I'll be able to adapt the squad in future transfer windows to create a different kind of team which plays the kind of football I prefer: on the front foot. For now I'm going with a style that reflects Atletico.

I also think it's interesting that my chosen formation and set-up of roles is quite similar to how Atletico played last year, but an evolution of that based on their signings. Before, they played a 4-4-2 with David Villa and Diego Costa. Mandzukic is quite similar to Costa in that he's aggressive and an all-round, complete forward, but they didn't sign a direct replacement for Villa. I would say that Griezmann is the 'poacher' of the side now, much like Villa, but he starts from the left wing. Koke was previously the left midfielder, coming inside much like Arda Turan does for me (and did in real life for Atletico too) and in my 4-5-1 he is the MCL as an AP (A), which I think is closest to WM (A) in the MC roles. So it's already quite similar to Atletico in real life I think, although Griezmann's role as a W (A) in a ML position doesn't quite see him get close to our STC, at least not enough for it to evolve into a 4-4-2. It's still very much a 4-5-1 but one that I see as similar to Atletico's 4-4-2 set-up of last year, albeit with different personnel causing some tweaks.

I'm playing Napoli at home in the CL, and I've decided to go ahead with this Atleti-focused style of play, and persist with it for a few games because I now know what I'm looking for, so it'll be a little easier to analyse. Apologies once again for the indecision and I hope the thread hasn't been too hard to follow...! Thanks to anyone still reading, too. :)

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